Sailing into the record books

Central and North Burnett Times - - LIFESTYLE | OLDER & WISER - ALI­SON HOUS­TON

WHEN Bill Hat­field cruised qui­etly into the Gold Coast Spit last month to be­come the old­est per­son to sail solo, non-stop and unas­sisted around the world, it was a tri­umph for him, but also a state­ment about se­niors’ abil­i­ties.

The 81-year-old Queens­land grand­fa­ther not only beat the record set last year by 77-year-old Bri­tish wo­man Jeanne Socrates but did so by tak­ing the more dif­fi­cult west­bound route in his 38foot L’Eau Com­mo­tion.

The voy­age, which took him 259 days – about eight months, was the cul­mi­na­tion of a dream held since he was seven years old.

For­mer Southport Yacht Club com­modore, jour­nal­ist and au­thor Rob Mun­dle (OAM) was there with Bill’s friends and fam­ily to greet him, and said: “The guy’s de­ter­mi­na­tion is just stun­ning.’’

He de­scribed Bill’s route as “like walk­ing up Ever­est back­wards” in terms of dif­fi­culty.

“The minute you put the age into the equa­tion, it’s even more in­cred­i­ble,” Rob said.

And Rob has been there and re­ported on some of sailing’s big­gest mo­ments for about 50 years.

That in­cludes live in­ter­na­tional coverage of Aus­tralia win­ning the Amer­ica’s Cup in 1983, and writ­ing the best­selling book Fa­tal Storm, about the tragic 54th Syd­ney Ho­bart Yacht Race.

Af­ter months at sea, with rarely a mo­ment when the boat would have been still, and the re­sult­ing con­stant stresses on Bill’s body, Rob was amazed by Bill’s agility, “bound­ing about the boat” on his re­turn.

That Bill had at­tempted the cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion sev­eral times be­fore only en­hances his achieve­ment.

Rob said the sub­stan­tial storm dam­age to the rig­ging that halted Bill’s first at­tempt, as he rounded Cape Horn in 2015 would have been enough for any­one else to call it quits, never mind set­ting out twice more.

He pointed out that plan­ning and prepa­ra­tion alone would have been a mo­men­tous task.

Even this trip was not with­out its dra­mas along­side reg­u­lar chores and re­pairs. Bill slipped over­board while try­ing to re­trieve a sail in late Au­gust.

Rob said Bill de­served far more than the small crowd who had cheered him in, but “that re­flects the man; he’s very hum­ble, and he wasn’t do­ing it for the pro­mo­tion”.

“He’s a to­tally unas­sum­ing bloke who went for a sail – that sail just hap­pened to be around the world.”

One of Bill’s blog fol­low­ers, Sheila Thorne, summed up the feel­ing of many by writ­ing: “You are truly a re­flec­tion of what it means to never give up! … You will def­i­nitely go down in Aus­tralian his­tory as be­ing an in­cred­i­ble ad­vo­cate for ‘age has no bar­ri­ers’!”

Rob said what Bill did showed in an un­com­pro­mis­ing fash­ion that sailing re­ally is a sport for all ages.

“In the last Syd­ney Ho­bart you had guys in their teens sailing be­side guys 60-70 years old,” Rob said.

“It’s a sport for all sea­sons, all sexes and all ages … and is truly in­ter­na­tional.’’

Rob said: “He has also shown you can do any­thing at any age if you put your mind to it.”

Pic­ture: Sup­plied

WHAT A FEAT: Sailor Bill Hat­field, 81, has be­come the old­est per­son to sail solo, non-stop and unas­sisted around the world. LEFT: Bill sails into the Gold Coast on Fe­bru­ary 22. Pic­ture: Nick Halsey, Re­gional Rear Com­modore NE Aus­tralia

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.