A poem by Robert N. Rose sums up my first ever Hamilton Island Race week best: “Ships are the nearest thing to dreams that hands have ever made.”
Flying up to Hamo after being invited onto the 40-year-old Admiral’s Cup yacht Charisma, I was full of anticipation and excitement. Upon arrival, the sky seemed a little bluer, the air was definitely warmer and my heart kept making little jumps every time I saw a sailboat (which was non-stop given there were about 200 of them taking part in the races).
The mostly Spanish crew of the 57-foot yacht I was sailing on were welcoming when I dug up my limited school Spanish and dug in to help get the boat ready. Charisma has a wonderful story, especially since her “new” owner (and navigator), Alejandro Perez Calzada, has taken the beautifully restored Sparkman & Stephens 57 on a voyage around the world. The boat left its home, the Real Club Náutico de Barcelona in 2007 to circumnavigate the world starting with the Rolex Fastnet in England. Major international races like Newport to Bermuda, Transpac and, last year, the Sydney to Hobart followed.
In Sydney, the yacht acquired Australian sailor Frank Sticovich, not just for his sailing skills but also his impeccably fluent Spanish. He’s become close to the core crew and his engagement adds to the boat’s outstanding sense of family. It’s thanks to Frank that I joined Charisma as part of the extended Australian family, together with his partner Wendy and YSA sailor Kurt.
The core crew consists of Olympic and World Championship sailors (one of them also a painter with a wicked sense of humour), their loving and keen partners (themselves with decades of combined sailing experience), a beautiful 13-year-old daughter with an incredible smile and lovable nature, young Spanish sailor Juan (much loved by our neighbours) and the charismatic (pardon the pun) gentleman/ navigator owner. All of them full of sailing enthusiasm (okay maybe not all the time for those that were hoping for a proper holiday too), zest for life and endless stories (I just wish my Spanish was better).
I’ve always loved the sea and sports, and sailing combines the two in a beautiful way. The level of skill, sense of adventure and sportsmanship on our boat was outstanding and every day brought new memorable experiences. During my week up at Hamo, I not only learned sailing Spanish, I also experienced an unsurpassed level of hospitality.
We spent our days milling around the marina, sailing and eating beautiful home-cooked meals. There wasn’t much time for anything else but there didn’t need to be. Sailing Charisma to a second place overall in the IRC Passage Division One was enough. Despite being hit in the head by the headsail’s clew, having the winch handle fly into my groin and cutting both sides of my ankles open with the tacking headsail’s lazy sheet (I still have a festering open wound on one side), my enduring memories will be of smiles, butterflies alighting on winches, shared stories, waves and water and utter pride to have been part of Charisma’s around-the-world adventure.
For more info on Charisma’s amazing story, head to www.charismasraces.com. Hasta luego!