Ross Ham: Eat, Sleep, Sail, Repeat

16 December 2015

Amongst the crew competing in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race this year is Australian Ross Ham, (58), the first double circumnavigator crew member in the history of the Clipper Race.

The Garmin crew member is enjoying his second circumnavigation so much he is even considering signing up for a third edition in 2017-18.

Here, he talks about both his race experiences, and gives his tips for crew competing in the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race for the first time.


History tells me when I find something I like, I do it over and over again. For example, I run the same distance and course for my exercise routine and do the same hikes each year.

I started sailing when I was eight, and first represented my home state Queensland when I was nine. I then progressed to sailing skiffs and represented Australia in various championships.

Having grown up on the waterfront in Brisbane, I lived and breathed sailing until having a "break" for work and have now gone back to it since retiring.

I loved competing in the Clipper 2013-14 Race. I didn’t want it to end. My family tell me that its basic and regimented life with constant activity fits me like a glove, and so it was meant to be.

I do miss my wife Kathy and our three children and seven grandchildren when I’m away. Of course, Kathy thinks I’m mad to be doing the entire circumnavigation again. She can’t imagine how difficult it must be to sail around the world in the extreme conditions. But she does understand just how much I love racing on the open ocean, and the rewards and satisfaction that come from achieving something so challenging. She is very supportive.

You never know what is next on the race – it is so stimulating. There are many ups and downs, mainly dictated by the weather. This time, the basic learning curve of how to race a Clipper 70 is already known, so I am able to help others get a feel for the ropes sooner. I get a lot of satisfaction from teaching others on board.

Then they are able to progress out of their comfort zone and really appreciate what the Clipper Race is all about.

There are so many joys to be found in the day to day life on board. Every day is beautiful. This is as good as it gets.

If there are enough whispers, eventually that becomes talk. Talk may become fact so yes, I am actually considering signing up for a third circumnavigation! The Clipper Race is a huge challenge. I enjoyed the helming on Race 4 so much, and I’m thankful to my Skipper Ash for giving me the opportunity to do so over the watch. It ticked all the boxes for me.

I’m feeling very, very happy to be here in Sydney again. My wife Kathy has surprised me by turning up to meet me here and also it was a great race.

One day the wind recorder showed over a four hour period that the wind was greater than 50 knots for 20 minutes, peaking at 76 knots and the boat speed averaged 18.1 knots over an hour which I believe must be close to some sort of Clipper Race record. We were flying, we were actually bouncing over the waves. That’s why I am here doing this race a second time. I’m like a dog with two tails and both are wagging.

The Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race is an adrenaline rush at the start and then it settles down, but you have to go for up to 72 hours and the batteries do run down. It’s just a matter of when the ever-ready Duracell bunny collapses.

Ross’s top tips for Sydney Hobart first-timers

I’d advise crew to get as much rest as possible in preparation for it. On other legs and ocean crossings, there are times when you will not be at 100% of your game the whole time. Here, the intensity must be maintained. For instance, you must be on the rails all the time, and not in the cockpit. If you are not sitting on the rails, you will not finish in the top three.

Be prepared for everyone to be specialising in roles and positions so that the best helms and trimmers are working, for example.

And finally, be prepared for how quickly the weather fronts change.

The start is spectacular and the finish is very rewarding, and the Derwent River is a very pretty place for it to conclude, so I am very much looking forward to my Garmin crew seeing it and experiencing it.

Ross is using the opportunity of being home in Australia to catch up with his family, including his daughter who is expecting another baby.

See Ross tackling the Southern Ocean in this video here.

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