Throwback Thursday: Henri Lloyd celebrates first race win of the series in Australia

11 December 2014

“We were the winners of the Albany to Sydney Race!” says Donato Paradiso, a 53 year-old Italian who took part in Leg 4 of the last edition of the race.

This time last year, Donato and his team Henri Lloyd crossed the finish line of Race 5 into Sydney, Australia claiming their fourth consecutive podium result and first win of the 2013-14 race.

The team was enjoying an exceptional race campaign, coming out on top in the overall race standings, but had never won an overall race yet. It arrived into Rushcutters Bay in the early morning moonlight, passing the iconic Sydney Opera House after the 2150 mile tactical race from Albany, Western Australia.

Reliving the race that saw the fleet take on the Southern Ocean for the second time, Donato says: “We were always sailing well above 10 knots and often the boat would surf up to 18 knots. We were fast. And so were the others!

“It was right before entering the Bass Strait that we found the right tactics to make a change to the leaderboard. There was an area of low pressure west of us, close to Melbourne. This meant that while heading north on the shortest route, most of the fleet would have found that low right on its course and could encounter lighter winds and slow down considerably.”

Seeing its opportunity to attack and make gains on the fleet, Henri Lloyd decided to head further west, on a much longer route in the search for stronger winds.

“The last day of sailing towards Sydney was a glorious day that I will never forget. Invigorated from the new tactics and from the faint possibility of leaving the rest of the fleet behind, we pushed the boat and ourselves hard. During the day, as our daily fix of news about the rest of the fleet’s positions was coming in, we begun to realise that our dream of winning our first race was becoming real. As skipper Eric forecasted, the wind was steadily pushing us towards our goal as the rest of the fleet was falling in the low pressure, trapped in light winds.

“As we kept heading north, weather conditions changed again, the temperature became much warmer and pleasant. We were in Eastern Australia. The sky was clear; millions of stars were welcoming us in one of the most beautiful areas of the world.

“Many of us, including myself, saw Sydney for the first time and from the sea that night. A myriad of lights reflected the calm waters of Sydney Harbor and the city skyline all around us. We were all so astonished and distracted by the wonderful view while skipper Eric was becoming nervous. Rightly he wanted us to complete the race, but it was hard for us to pull our attention away from the many wonders we were all falling in love with around us. And finally we crossed the line!”

Donato adds: “Helming a Clipper 70 with spinnaker and full mainsail, surfing on beautiful large swells in deep blue sea, incredibly clear sky and fully oxygenated pollution-free air was a stirring experience. At night the Southern Hemisphere sky is something special to see. The clarity and the magnitude of the ceiling of stars, with their intense luminosity, the long shooting stars flashing through, the dark blue light of the sea surface, the white glaring wake of plankton and the smell of the ocean are like a spectacular dream. All your senses wake up and enjoy the melody of nature.”

Arriving in Sydney after three months of ocean racing in Mother Nature’s toughest conditions, the team’s next challenge was to compete alongside professionals in the iconic Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.

To find out more about Leg 4 in Australia, click here

To watch a video about the race to Sydney, click here

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