Category: 2016 Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race

Training Day 4 – Thursday

Two long days of safety work; sailing out in the ocean beyond the “heads”, and seemingly endless chores to get the boat in full racing condition, and we’re on track. The sailing community is giving us plenty of full on Australian humour, returned in kind.

Today’s practice had us doing spinnaker work under the Harbor Bridge, and tacking along by the Opera House – all a bit surreal.

Crew dinner at Bondi Beach tonight, and then two more days of inspections, tuning up, and loading the provisions. Our fearless leader Joe is giving a speech at the yacht club tonight – we all feel fortunate to be somewhere else (oh the crew have just corrected me – bitterly disappointed apparently).


All Joe Mele has heard since arriving in Australia from New York earlier this month is that anyone sailing a yacht out of Sydney and turning right towards Hobart is out of their mind.

He’ll realise a decade-long dream on Boxing Day when he does just that as captain of Triple Lindy, the only American entry in this year’s Sydney to Hobart, determined to successfully navigate the unpredictable waters of Bass Strait amid an undercurrent of apprehension.

Everyone I have talked to says that no sensible person ever turns right out of the Heads,” Mele said. “Complete strangers walk up to me on the dock and strike up a conversation.

You need a different compass in the southern hemisphere because of the south pole.

“I bought a new compass and a compass adjuster came out with me and he’s right out of Central Casting, old man of the sea, a bearded, older fellow and he was telling me about working on fishing boats in the Bass Strait.

“He said you have to be crazy to do that race.”

Mele has yearned to do a major international ocean race since competing for the first time in 2003, and is well aware of the potential dangers and delights a Sydney to Hobart has on offer.

He arrived in Sydney about 10 days ago to meet his 13.4-metre long Swan MK II yacht that has been moored in Woolwich Dock since late October.

Prior to that, Triple Lindy was shipped across the Pacific Ocean from the coast of Florida, through the Panama Canal and eventually into Sydney via Auckland and Newcastle.

It’ll have 10 crew aboard for the Sydney to Hobart – three Americans, six Canadians and a Brit – and while this is their maiden attempt at the punishing race, they’ll still be armed with crucial ocean experience on Boxing Day.

For more than a decade Mele has been sailing off the east coast of America, contesting races such as the Marblehead to Halifax, the Caribbean 600 and the split-personality Newport Bermuda.

“That race for instance is three different races,” Mele said. “You have the waters of the north Atlantic from the northeast to the gulf stream, and you’ll go out and it will be cold and the wind can be anywhere from five knots to 30 knots.

“Then you get into the gulf stream and that’s the most interesting part of that race, and in a way that’s our Bass Strait except only 60-miles wide.

“You’ve got a very warm current flowing from the southwest to the northeast and what makes for very potentially dangerous conditions is when you get a north east storm coming through when you’re crossing the gulf stream. You get incredibly big waves, choppy, it’s a very confused sea, it feels like you’re in a washing machine.

“Once you get through that it’s relatively smooth sailing in the Sarasota Sea where the temperatures are warmer and the conditions tend to be a bit more settled.

“We understand we’re up against a potentially much more serious challenge now. Every single person on board has been incredibly focused.”

Triple Lindy is one of 90 yachts contesting this year’s Sydney to Hobart, after the withdrawal of Victorian entry Avalanche.

From today’s Australian:

Australians are used to American yachtsmen arriving for the annual Rolex Sydney to Hobart race with the world’s newest, largest and most expensive ocean racers and making off with the silverware after leading the fleet into Hobart.

It started with Huey Long and Ondine I in 1962 and again with Ondine II in 1968 and then Ondine III in 1974. Jim Kilroy arrived with Kialoa II in 1971 and then set an elapsed time record that lasted for 21 years with Kialoa III in 1975.

America’s Cup great Ted Turner won with his converted 12 Metre class yacht American Eagle in 1972 and Larry Ellison won twice with Sayonara in 1995 and 1998.

More recently Jim Clark with Comanche and George David with Rambler 88 have kept the locals honest.

But this year there is a rather different American in the fleet. Joe Mele, a 53-year-old physician from Manhattan, is sailing a relatively modest 17-year-old, 44-foot sloop that bares the extraordinary name of Triple Lindy.

Fans of Roger Dangerfield movies will know the Triple Lindy as a remarkable dive, bouncing off three springboards, that Dangerfield’s character, Thornton Melon, used to win a college diving competition in the 1986 comedy Back to School.

“I used to do a version of the Triple Lindy when I was much younger,” Mele explained yesterday at the CYCA marina. “It wasn’t quite as complicated as Dangerfield’s, but I did it so quickly that no one noticed.”

Mele’s amateur career as a trick diver came to a rapid halt when he was 30 and his then recently acquired father-in-law saw him perform.

“He made me promise never to do it again but it gave me a name for my boats,” Mele said.

“If no one from my family is watching, I might give a reprise off the Constitution Dock in Hobart.”

The Hobart race will mark the midway point in a remarkable 16-month jaunt that will see Mele and his 10 crewmen compete in every major offshore race and regatta around the world. “We are not getting any younger, so we decided this was the time to do all the big races,” Mele said. “We are shipping the boat from country to country and then flying in to race.

“Wives and children often come along too, so I think we will have a party of about 30 waiting for us in Hobart,” he said.

Mele started sailing in his early 20s on the waters around Newport, Rhode Island.

“My early racing was all cruising but later I changed to ocean racing and kept buying larger and larger boats,” he said. “I purchased this Swan 44 Mk II in 2004 and have been racing her seriously ever since.

“She is a cruiser-racer rather than an all-out race boat but she is a terrific boat in all conditions. She even does surprisingly well in light airs for a heavy old fibreglass boat.

“My crew has been with me for years, so we know the boat well. She is in terrific shape and we could do well as anyone on handicap in the right conditions.

“To a certain extent, every race is a crapshoot. You have to sail as well as possible and you have to make the right navigational decisions. If you do, everyone thinks you’re a genius; if you don’t, no one knows.”

Mele said stories of how tough the Hobart race could be were being told to him by everyone he met but he is confident Triple Lindy and his crew can handle whatever comes.

“I never look at weather forecasts until two or three days before the start because they are almost never right. It is more sensible to wait and see what happens. In this year’s Newport to Bermuda race about a third of the fleet pulled out in the 24 hours before the start because of the weather forecast. We raced and it was one of the easiest trips to Bermuda ever.”

After cruising around southern Tasmania with his family after the Hobart race, Mele will ship Triple Lindy to Britain for next year’s Fastnet Race.

“I thought that might be the end of our wanderings but after some very good Australian red at a crew dinner last night I think I promised we would do another series in the Mediterranean after that,” he said.

“At this rate the boat may never get home again.”