30 December 2017
Crews complete Sydney Hobart
UK and Australian wounded, injured and ill defence personnel and veterans who set a course for healing, have spoken of their pride and sense of achievement at completing the 2017 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
Aboard the yachts Invictus Games Sydney 2018 GAME ON (UK) and Invictus Games Sydney 2018 DOWN UNDER (Aus), the 16 servicemen and women each had a reason to participate, and all agreed it was a moment they won’t forget.
Dan Fielding, a former Royal Marine and GAME ON crew member, was immensely proud of his team.
“Everyone has taken so much from this trip,” said Fielding. “Most of us have taken more out of the last three days than we’ve taken from the last three years.
“We’ve bonded as a team and we worked hard at every revolution. There’s a lot of revolutions over a race like this, but we worked for each other, snatching sleep here and there and working the boat for the conditions.”
Crossing the finish line on Friday, shortly after 5pm local time, the GAME ON crew was greeted by cheers and applause from enthusiastic spectators who had gathered at Constitution Dock to congratulate the sailors on their achievement.
“Really humbling experience for us, but it showed us what we’d actually done, we’ve done a massive ocean trip and it made us realise that,” said Fielding.
“Very different reception to the UK, here people are cheering and waving back, it was a spectacular feeling,” he said.
Catherine Ruddick, a British Army Veteran and GAME ON crew member was amazed at the reception.
“There were hundreds of people cheering and clapping,” said Ruddick.
“We were giving other boats cheers and claps and they were congratulating us as well. It was a really lovely experience coming in, very special,” she said.
Ruddick had a spring in her step as she realised an achievement she never thought possible.
“Like a lot of veterans, I’ve had a particularly tough year this year after leaving the Army, so to finish the year on such a high is incredible,” said Ruddick.
“I’ve been a sailor for two years and it’s been a dream to sail Sydney Hobart, but I never thought I’d manage it. To do it with other ex-military veterans and other civilians, in a supportive environment where we all understand each other and understand where we’ve come from and the challenges and problems each other has, it’s been fantastic.”
Tipped as an ‘Ashes on the water’, the crews battled more than the conditions as they raced down Australia’s east coast towards Hobart.
Bragging honours were awarded to the UK crew who finished the race nearly 11 hours ahead of their Australian counterparts, with DOWN UNDER arriving at Hobart just before 4am on Saturday.
They may have beaten their Aussie rivals, but as Fielding explained, the most important thing was for both crews to safely arrive at the finish.
“We can’t wait to see our Aussie brothers and sisters right next to us because that’s where they’re meant to be. Having both boats here safely and together for the New Year is what it’s all about,” said Fielding.
A pre-dawn arrival didn’t deter the family and friends of the DOWN UNDER crew from greeting their loved ones at the end of the race.
Australian Army Signalman and DOWN UNDER crew member Neil Busch said the Aussies were pleased with what they had achieved.
“Feels good, fairly tired, riding a bit of a high at the moment,” said Busch.
“Always good to get outside of our comfort zone and show what we’re actually capable of,” he said.
Busch’s crewmate, Warrant Officer Craig McGrath, plans to continue sailing, admitting it had been good for his headspace as he transitions out of the Australian Army.
McGrath said the natural challenges of sailing brought out the best in the crew.
“With a head wind we had to do a lot of tacking on the way up, it’s a lot of fun because everybody has to work together you can’t escape anyone either,” said McGrath.
“It forces you to get along with people and to work together and I really like doing that,” he said.
Invictus Games Sydney 2018 GAME ON 03:04: 00: 53
Invictus Games Sydney 2018 DOWN UNDER 03: 14: 56:35
Invictus Games Sydney 2018 race participation is being led by Invictus Games Sydney 2018 with support from; Jaguar Land Rover, the presenting Partner of Invictus Games Sydney 2018, UK not-for-profit Help for Heroes, the ADF Adaptive Sports Program, ClubsNSW, Returned and Services League, Clipper Ventures and Cruising Yacht Club of Australia.