WE did it! Out of the 12 Clipper boats racing in the Rolex Sydney to Hobart, Da Nang Vietnam, skippered by Sydney legend Wendy (Wendo) Tuck crossed the finish line first.
“We’ve done it,” was all Wendo could say through tears as we crossed.
It was Wendo’s race to win.
She’s famous in the Sydney sailing community and absolutely everyone was rooting for her. Over the usually serious radio Skeds, where boats report their positions and no other chatter is allowed, we heard a ‘go Wendo!’ as we were sailing into Tasmania’s Storm Bay.
And then as we came around Tasman Island with the spinnaker up, leading the rest of the Clipper fleet by 10 nautical miles we were surrounded by hundreds of Dolphins. Even the wildlife was cheering for Wendo!
“It’s awesome, really, really, really awesome,” she says.
“We’re going to have a bucket of wine!”
That we can do.
It was a tough Sydney to Hobart that had it all. First there was the terrible southerly that saw 31 boats pull out, and had us living in a graviton for 24 hours, with many of the crew taking vomit bags to bed.
Then there was the doldrums in the Bass Strait, and in some ways it was worse than the storm. We sat still for 9 hours, looking at our wind instruments saying we were doing 0.0 knots. We were just waiting for the armada of 11 Clipper boats behind us to catch up. But luckily they were in the same boat (so to speak).
This race means more to this rag tag bunch of people than most. After pulling into Hobart they’re not going back to their normal jobs and families. They’re only halfway through a race around the globe and this is their world.
Earlier in the trip when I asked former Sydneysider Marc Pendlebury where he lived, he tapped the hull of the boat and said, “I live here”.
You get the feeling that without this win, a few of the crew might have been ready to pull out. It’s a hard slog, managing not just the sailing, but living with 20 other people from all walks of life, from all over the world in a boat that’s basically the size of a one-bedroom apartment. It’s like Big Brother, with the added complication of having to rely on each other for survival.
But this family couldn’t be happier today.
“We’d resigned our self to just finishing our round the world trip. We’d stopped thinking about winning,” said British travel agent Bridget Keevil.
It’s obvious the rest of the crew feel the same. Coming in, no one quite knew what to do with themselves. Even with just a few miles to go there were nervous remarks about us stuffing this up. There was to be no celebrating until we crossed the finish line.
But when we did there were tears and hugs all around.
As well as being first in the Clipper fleet Wendo has taken out the Jane Tate memorial trophy for being the first female skipper to cross the Hobart finish line.
It’s just the icing on the cake for our Wendo.
* Hannah Stenning was aboard Da Nang Vietnam for the entire race.