Gavel / Erik prepares for ‘hell on the high water’

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ERIK Adriaanse says he remembers the day his mother bought him a $400 boat to sail in competitions on Lake Burley Griffin. He wasn’t sure what to expect.
It is a far cry to the present day as he prepares for his 29th Sydney-to-Hobart Yacht Race, this time on board a Trans Pac 52. Not the biggest of sailing craft by any stretch of the imagination.

Tim Gavel.

I get the impression he wouldn’t have it any other way having won line honours as part of George Snow’s “Brindabella” boats and a handicap winner as a crew member with “Love and War” in 2006.

“George Snow doesn’t want to hear me say this, but I think the corrected-time victory is probably more satisfying because it really is what the whole race is about; it’s about boats of all sizes and ages and if you can win on a 40-year-old boat that means it has been sailed well.”

As far as Erik is concerned, the smaller the boat, the greater the challenge.

This year presents a sense of the unknown for Erik with a new craft and a new crew, which is yet to train together on board and in race conditions.

The memories of those early days on Lake Burley Griffin might be revisited during this year’s race, along with his first Sydney-to-Hobart. It was during his first Sydney-to-Hobart that Erik decided he didn’t want to do it any more. It was a wet and miserable journey yet he’s kept on returning year after year with only a couple of breaks in between.

A new boat and a new crew present a totally different challenge.

“Ideally, you want to be with the same crew all year round doing most of the Blue Water championship races. This has been a slightly different year; this boat has been leased, and we have a combination of crews. In terms of meshing together, it usually takes a while,” says Erik.

Time together as a crew is a commodity in short supply in this case and its making Erik a little nervous.

“It’s not going to be perfect leaving the Heads, but I think by the time we hit Bass Strait we will be in a good rhythm and will probably have it all together,” he says.

It was different in earlier races, as Erik recalls: “When we sailed on ‘Brindabella’ we had a magnificent crew where everybody knew what the other person was doing and we had a good spirit and it worked beautifully.

“When you get on a boat where you don’t know people that well, I do get a bit nervous. You don’t know how capable they are, you don’t know how they are going to deal with bad weather, whether they are going to get seasick, if they become aggressive.

“I like a boat where communication is effective and people are not yelling. That tends to happen when people are not used to each other; they yell a bit, and that’s not good.”

Erik says at the completion of this year’s race he will take a break from the Sydney to Hobart. The plan is to return in 2019 for the 75th anniversary race, it will be his 30th race and it also provides the 40-year-old boat, “Love and War”, a chance to win a record fourth victory on corrected time. He says the “Love and War” crew of 2016 has vowed to return as one in 2019.

In the meantime, he is preparing for hell on the high water “because you’re knocked around for a few days during the race, there is a sense of elation when getting to Constitution Dock”.

“It is probably the reason why I keep fronting up again and again,” he says.

“It is a sense of relief. It’s quite a tiring thing to be up and down three hours on, three hours off, and doing that for three or four days does strange things to your body and mind.”

It’s too early to start visualising, that process usually coincides with Christmas Day, and by his own admission his thoughts will be elsewhere as he unwraps presents. His focus is on the weather forecast and contemplating what might unfold during the race.

I think I would start visualising a little earlier this year.

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Tim Gavel
Journalist and ABC sports broadcaster

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