Before Sunday’s race, Michael Spies of Australia had sailed the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 43 occasions. In 1999, he gained after breaking the race file by half a day. In 2003, Spies gained once more. He additionally has helped fellow sailors discover the best boats and refit them into superior racing yachts.
His newest effort is the Maritimo, a 54-foot racing yacht he discovered within the United States for Bill Barry-Cotter, a former motorboat racing champion who additionally races sailboats.
The following dialog has been edited and condensed.
Tell me about your position in outfitting Maritimo.
Bill had me go discover him a ship. There was nothing in Australia, so I flew to the United States the place we checked out a number of boats. I lastly discovered the best one — a Schumaker 54 — in San Diego. We shipped it again to Australia for a rebuild. He gave me a workforce of guys, and we simply went for it. We pulled all of it aside, changed the aluminum mast with a carbon-fiber mast. We principally turned a 22-year-old boat into one thing that’s fairly dominant on the water.
In 2019, you additionally helped Barry-Cotter put together the Katwinchar, a 115-year-old 32-foot ketch and the oldest boat to sail the race. What’s the attract of racing a ship effectively over a century previous?
It was in-built 1904 in London on the Watney Brewery. It competed within the 1951 Sydney Hobart race, however didn’t end. Barry-Cotter’s father purchased the boat round 1960, and Bill grew up crusing on it. Then it went lacking for 50 years till Bill discovered it in 2017. So it has lots of household historical past. I optimized it to make it go sooner. It was a showcase boat, however it additionally wanted to be rugged, dependable and secure. It was like placing seatbelts in a Model T Ford. It was definitely completely different. It was a once-in-a-lifetime alternative. I’ve by no means performed something fairly like that and neither has anybody else. It was a freak boat, very distinctive. We had been racing boats 90 years youthful than us. Being so previous, there have been some challenges. But we had been aggressive and gained our division. It was like a wolf in sheep’s clothes.
Tell me all concerning the so-called Spies Makeover. Why is it so in style with sailors who need to enhance the racing high quality of their boats?
All of our personal boats have been fairly fast. And that kind of translated right into a cottage business. Lots of individuals come to us to get their boats going sooner. And that’s what we’ve performed fairly efficiently. It’s not a matter of reinventing the wheel. You deal with different individuals’s cash such as you do your personal, so there’s no wastage or meat left on the bone. I additionally ask individuals in the event that they plan to sail one, three or 5 years to gauge the extent of the challenge. If it’s one 12 months, we do the minimal, if it’s three, the challenge is extra concerned. If they plan to sail in 5 years, we rip all of it aside and begin once more.
In your 43 years on the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, what have you ever realized?
Nothing ever is for certain. No matter how a lot you assume you already know, this race exhibits you ways little you actually know. It’s one of the few ocean races that’s not possible to remain in the identical climate sample. The challenges are all the time there. You by no means have a simple race, even when there’s mild air. It’s a bodily and psychological problem.
Outside of the situations, does the race change a lot 12 months to 12 months?
No two races are the identical. I’ve seen the evolution of the race over time. We’re extra comfy now, there’s been so many enhancements to the boats, electronics and security gear. But I bear in mind the times once I’d cease by the fuel station the morning of the race, get the newspaper and tear out the climate report and tape it to the bulkhead — that was our climate studying. Now, we have now every day international climate fashions onboard. It’s a a lot better sport now. But one factor hasn’t modified: the camaraderie among the many crew.