Teamwork … the crew on board the Lahana, which is positioned behind Wild Oats XI and Ragamuffin-Loyal. Photo: Dallas Kilponen
It was a shame to see the race start without one of the main contenders for line and handicap honours in the fleet. It was an obvious blow for Wild Thing, but it was also a blow for the race, those of us on Lahana and every other rival yacht. You want to compete against a full fleet and if possible beat the best among them.
In this instance, we did not know exactly what happened to the 30-metre Wild Thing that led to it being excluded from the fleet. All we really knew was that the paperwork of owner and skipper Grant Wharington was apparently not up to date.
We did talk about the issue before the race (as did everyone else) and we did chat about it a little after things settled down following the start, but it wasn't something we had reason to dwell on - nor could we afford to.
We had to focus on getting ready for the race start and what we were all going to do over the coming days. We have come into this year's race - both the 24-strong crew and the boat - well prepared, and we believe we are in with our best crack at either the line honours or handicap titles.
And, thankfully, as I write these words (touch wood), we had nothing major to regret or worry about as the fleet sped out past Sydney Heads and was heading south. As far as Lahana was concerned, our start was problem-free. It would have been nice to have had the spinnaker up a touch earlier in the southerly that was blowing, but we were not concerned about being first out the Heads.
The main thing was we got out safely and did not foul or break anything. By 3pm, when we were sailing just south of Cronulla, the crew was still seasick-free in the open seas that were lumpy early but had begun to settle.
By that time, the crew was also operating on our watch system where we are divided into small groups and operate between either being on deck sailing, resting or being on standby for any emergency.
As we bunkered down for that first night at sea, we were in a straight line behind Wild Oats XI and Ragamuffin-Loyal trucking at about 13-14 knots. But as I know too well, it can all change so quickly - for better or worse.