Albany crew in iconic yacht race

By David Kavanagh | posted on January 9, 2020

IT WAS one minute into 2020 when Albany sailors Mark McRae, Corrina Ridgway and Stephen Lee officially crossed the finish line at the recent Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

The trio had departed from Sydney aboard the 36ft Spirit of Freya more than five days prior, travelling 1170km down Australia’s eastern coastline and overcoming everything from windless doldrums to extreme storms.

“I say to people, you wouldn’t believe it, Hobart council and the Tasmanian Government put on an awesome fireworks display just for us,” Mr McRae joked about the state’s 2020 New Year’s Eve display.

“We pulled in and there were thousands of people on the docks and they were partying and yelling out ‘Freya, Freya’ and throwing beers on board.

“It was almost overwhelming, it was amazing.”

While Spirit of Freya placed 150th out of more than 170 yachts in line honours, Mr McRae said the journey was well worth embarking upon.

The 62-year-old experienced yachtsman recalled the challenging conditions the crew experienced as they neared the end of their run.

“We got smashed with a really nasty storm, 40 to 45 and sometimes 48- knot gusts,” he said.

“There was heavy, heavy, heavy hail and I was at the steering wheel and it was hitting me in the eyes, along with the saltwater spray. It was all hands on deck.”

“We were very fortunate when one of the bigger boats (the American owned Cailin Lomhara) actually sailed back and stood by and just watched us for a few hours until the storm abated.”

The crew, comprised of the Albany group and four sailors from Victoria, also endured long hours of idleness when zero-knot wind left them “bobbing around like corks in the ocean”.

Mr McRae said Mr Lee’s and Ms Ridgway’s professionalism trimming the sails and helming the yacht was invaluable.

He said he hoped to compete in the 76th iteration of the event next year.

Jim Cooney and Samantha Grant’s NSW yacht Comanche took home first place line honours this run, pulling into port only one day, 18 hours and 30 minutes after departing Sydney.

Record holder Wild Oats XI, also from NSW, placed third behind Infotrack while Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban was declared overall handicap winner.