Achieving on & off the sporting field

Sailing into the history books

This story originally appeared in Deadly Vibe Magazine Issue #1 February, 1997

We have just opened The Vault – all the back stories from old editions – dating back to the 1990s. To know where we are going, it's important to understand where we have been. And that story you can follow in the Deadly Vibe Vault!

When Kathy Collingridge, Brad Davison-Bergman and David Bird enrolled in the four day beginner sailing course at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, little did they know that in three months time they would be part of the most famous yacht races in the world, the Sydney to Hobart.

Out of 18 young Aboriginal people who started the course in conjunction with the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia and One Time International, 12 went on to complete a four day intermediate course. Six were selected to complete ocean training.

From these six, three were selected with along another 11 crew members to complete in the Sydney to Hobart Race.

That was how it all started and Kathy, Brad and David embarked on the trip of a life time.

They describe the race as difficult to imagine if you have never done it. The crew of 14 split into two teams and worked three 4 hour shifts between 6.00am and 6.00pm and four 3 hour shifts between 6.00pm and 6.00am.

“I never saw some members who were on the other shift,” Kathy said. “Everything is secondary to sailing.”

All crew had their own jobs to do. Kathy was the main sheet trimmer, which involves controlling the power of the boat. On our four hour shift she worked the sail with vigour. She says proudly that she has the biceps to prove it.

“The sailing vessel has eight bunks, and you end up rolling from side to side during the night,” Kathy said.

Meals consisted of stews, spaghetti Bolognese and hot dogs.

“Your meal can just sit and get cold until you get a chance to have a bite,” Brad said.

“And sometimes, in rough times, it could fall overboard – that’s bad luck!”

“We ate lots of snacks, chocolate bars, lollies and nuts to keep our energy levels up,” he added.

During the four day race, the crew did not shower or change clothes.

“What we worked in during the day we slept in – wet weather gear and all. You have to be prepared all the time as all hands on deck may be needed at anytime,” Kathy said.

The race was a lot of hard work, but Kathy and Brad say they wouldn’t have changed a thing. They still jump out of their skins when they talk about it.

“It was the most wonderful experience of my lifetime,” Kathy said.

“As I worked the sail I saw my first whale albatross.”

The Sydney to Hobart was the first time the crew had worked together. It was also the first time that some of the other crew members had ever met an Aboriginal person.

“They were asking lots of questions and learning about us and our culture.” Kathy said.

It was a great example of the reconciliation process.

The program was organised by One Time International and the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia. Training was funded by the NSW Department of Sport, Recreation and Racing. Further support came from The Body Shop and Telstra.

Special thanks must also be given to the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation and to Brian Emery from Chicka Dixon Hostel in Sydney.

If you are interested in becoming involved in sailing, call Jeremy Pearce at One Time International on 0412 170 974.

As Brad said, “it was wonderful to arrive in Hobart.”

These three Aboriginal people sailed into the history books being the first indigenous crew members in the famous Telstra Sydney to Hobart Yacht race.

Congratulations from everyone at Deadly Vibe.


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