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What to do?

by John Curnow. Editor, Sail-World AUS 18 Oct 2020 14:00 PDT
A wedge-tailed eagle observes its domain from on high © John Curnow

To be honest, it is not really a question you have to ask of the subject of today's Editorial. She's a ball of energy with a fantastic work ethic, an enduring smile, and a certain tenacity that reminds you of the talons below a wedge-tailed eagle. Adversity may strike, but her passion, desire, and will remain omnipresent. Always.

So therefore, it will come as no surprise that whilst also working with Terry Wise's Pacific Sailing School, our Lisa Blair has put her COVID time to good use.

Working in partnership with Australian Geographic, on 1 November, Lisa's launching her debut book entitled Facing Fear. No doubt it will be a gripping tale, much like the eagle above. In Facing Fear, Lisa recounts the inspiring true story of her solo voyage around Antarctica, which of course was a tale she almost didn't live to tell.

It's a riveting read for people of all ages who are interested in the triumph of the human spirit. Lisa recounts the highlights of her extraordinary voyage, and along the way, she shows readers that positive thinking and perseverance can make a difference. Dick Smith AC, remarked on her voyage saying, "Lisa Blair's Southern Ocean voyage was one of the greatest adventures of our lifetime."

Lisa was 72 days into her 183-day journey and 1,000 nautical miles from land when her mast came crashing down due to equipment failure. She battled in freezing conditions for four hours to save her yacht, and by extension, her life too.

The book's title, Facing Fear, centres around the lasting effect of trauma from the serious accident, and Lisa's brave determination to overcome this in order to complete her trip.

Now you would probably imagine that Lisa was surrounded by boats from early childhood, but Lisa was actually 22 years of age when she discovered her passion for our sport. As she says herself, "I was frustrated with working in a bar in Queensland's Whitsunday Islands. So one Summer, I decided to take a gamble and put in my application to work as a hostess on a charter yacht."

"I honestly had no idea of the path that this would lead me on."

After her discovery of sailing, Lisa went on to pursue it with a passion, seeking out every sailing opportunity that she could find, before finally raising the funds to compete in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. "When I finished the circumnavigation, so many people would ask me what my favourite place to sail too was, and my answer was always the Southern Ocean!"

"Something about the raw beauty and the great waves just captured my heart. That said, when the idea of sailing solo around Antarctica was suggested to me, my immediate answer was a resounding No."

When I asked her why she laughed, she said, "It's the Southern Ocean. This crazy, beautiful place that is so deadly, and I felt that it would be suicide to try something like that. I hadn't even sailed solo as yet."

So what then changed her mind?

"I stewed on the idea for months, constantly going back and forward and arguing the pros and cons in my mind. Then, as time went on, I started leaning more towards the pros. Eventually, after a lot of research, I felt that it might just be possible to do, and so I determined that I was going to try."

"Then, once that commitment was made in my mind, I just needed to figure out a way to make it possible."

According to Australian sailing icon, Kay Cottee AO, "Lisa is a great example of how to achieve your dreams with planning, preparation and dedication." Indeed, this is exactly the way to sum up Blair's approach to things.

Lisa recalls mulling over worst-case scenarios for three-and-a-half years prior to setting sail, in order to mentally prepare herself. She was motivated by the belief that one should never go on such a voyage expecting to be rescued.

Equally, she admits it is impossible to ever truly prepare for a gruelling expedition like hers. "While I felt I could handle it, I couldn't predict what challenges I was going to face.

"The dismasting was probably one of the worst things that could have happened to me. Not only did it change my record, but I was left fighting for my life more than 1000nm from land, and so utterly and completely alone. It was a moment in time that I'll never forget. Amid this unforgiving and raw seascape, here I was, in a tiny yacht, surviving."

"I feel incredibly lucky to be able to be here today and share my story. I am really proud of the story I am able to tell, and I feel that this is the most honest account of my journey that I can recount."

There is no shortage of names to testify to anything you have read so far, and another is Sir Richard Branson, who describes the book as, "An incredible story of adventure and endurance that shows what the human spirit can achieve when pushed to its limits."

In Facing Fear, Lisa explores themes of loneliness, fatigue and hypothermia. She shares everything from the extreme pain endured in freezing temperatures, to the 'temper tantrums' that transpired after only allowing herself to sleep for 20 minutes at a time. She emphasises the clear link between her physical experience, and her mental health, highlighting the valiance and tenacity required to succeed.

Undoubtedly, Blair, as the adventurer she is will have terrific insights on, and approach to, handling isolation and loneliness, albeit under extreme conditions. This is surely to be of interest to many facing these issues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reflecting on advice she received from fellow sailing legend, Jessica Watson, Lisa advises people to stop and appreciate the unique journey they are on, remember that the current situation is temporary, and try to see the extra down time as an opportunity for self-development. She also reminisces about the moments of contentment amidst the chaos, and has often told me just how much she appreciates the solitude found right out at sea.

Lisa hopes her book will inspire women to follow their dreams in the way that she was inspired by the great female adventurers and trailblazers who came before her. She remains motivated by their success as a result of their perseverance, and hopes that her commitment and determination shine through to influence others in a similar way.

As denoted by the name of her boat, Climate Action Now, Lisa is also a passionate environmental activist, and wants to educate people on the positive effects of individual action against climate change. Lisa started the Climate Action Now campaign after witnessing the devastating impact of human consumption on our oceans and wildlife.

She recalls sailing through 'soups' of plastic, floating in vast stretches of ocean thousands of kilometres from land. The hull of Lisa's boat is covered in post-it notes received from members of the public that detail positive actions individuals are taking towards a sustainable future as a result of her campaign. The same post-it note print can be found inside the cover of her book.

As I once wrote of Lisa Blair, there is always unfinished business, but for right now, Facing Fear the book is available for pre-order via her website.

All hail the mighty....



It was certainly good to see Beneteau's Damien Jacob once more, even if it was as part of a TeamsApp meeting. The first time was in Barcelona for the then brand spanking new Oceanis 51.1, and after that, Sydney for the Oceanis 46.1. This last time is even more auspicious, for it coincided with the first First Yacht 53 to make to Australia.

Now Odin has four jibs, a staysail, two kites for the end of the prodder, and a further two on furlers, and yes, Damien assured me she can run in triple head configuration, and that's not only down below, either. Now she does run a conventionally roached mainsail, but her biggest bag is 270m2, so her intent is obvious. The First Yacht 53 is also balsa cored throughout, has a 3m draft, a massive 5m beam (think of the stability that will give - and power), and the vast majority of her length is also given to her waterline.

Biscontini were given the nod to create her form, which is just as much about their America's Cup work, as it is about another brand they have penned the lines for, and that would be Wally. So if we have mini maxis, then this could well be the first mini superyacht. It is no secret that there is an Italian influence for a truly global brand, just look to the man at the top for that.

So we're thinking it could be something absolutely special, and the low slung lines with the teak deck, bow and stern thrusters, lithium batteries, and moderate tonnage say a lot. Yet this powerful express cruiser with the twin rudders is super easy to control, most of which is courtesy of electric winches, and an electric furler, so won't need and army of pros to get around the track. I am told in 25 knots it is finger helm and no-one on the rail. Also, they were doing 8 knots directly uphill in 10 at 23-25AWA during her sea trials with Flagstaff Marine.

Blah, blah, blah. It had me at wine fridges (yes, that's plural). We will investigate the level of finish which is taking it right on up, and the sports car stuff too, like Harken switch track, canoe boom etc etc. Stand by...

Definitely time to go racing

The choker chain has been eased a bit in the IRC world. Most specifically in the 40-something bracket. The M.A.T 1340 is the latest offering from IRC designer of the moment Mark Mills, and M.A.T Yachts look to have scored, with K&D doing all of the testing that backs that up.

So if getting the chocolates over the boiled lollies sounds like it's the go for you, then have a read of the just-released final version of the boat that will do away with the ocean grader. The M.A.T 1340 looks the part (and then some), will be more stable, easier to handle, and rate super well, even getting up on the plane when there's some squirt on offer...


We've been on the two-handed thing for a while, as is evidenced by the many editorials over the last couple of years. We've stepped that up a bit in the COVID era, but I did particularly like this video of the J/99 Speedster, so strap in and go for a yacht, or if you are locked down, have a think about what it will be like...

Right oh - there is plenty of information on the group's websites for you to review when you can. Please avail yourself of it.

Now if your class or association is generating material, we can help you spread your word just by. Got this newsletter from a friend? Would you like your own copy next week? Just follow the instructions on our newsletter page. Whilst there, you can also register for other editions, like Powerboat-World.

Finally, thank you for keeping a weather eye on Sail-World. Your increased patronage and sensational, heartfelt comments have made our crew work even harder to bring you the best from all over the globe...

John Curnow
Editor, Sail-World AUS

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