Workplace Culture | 5 min

From Novice to Nautical: My Sydney Hobart Journey So Far

December 19, 2023

Paul Kimber wearing a black LawConnect tshirt

By Paul Kimber, Development Operations Manager at LEAP Dev

For most Australians growing up, the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is one of the most iconic sporting events of the calendar year. Given the time of year that it falls, it captures a pretty eclectic audience. Households up and down the country will be switching between the race and cricket’s Boxing Day Test, while devouring Christmas leftovers and one too many sweet treats.

Having grown up in the UK, while Boxing Day has always been a big day of sport, I hadn’t realised just what this event was before moving here. Having looked at it from a distance in previous years, I still can’t quite comprehend that I am going to be a part of the LawConnect team competing - a true once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Since the pandemic, a lot has been made of various work perks that companies offer to their employees, but being able to sail the Sydney Hobart Race as a total novice surely has to be up there?! At LEAP, we are very fortunate that LawConnect sponsors one of the race's supermaxi yachts. As a result, each year, The LEAP Group selects four of its employees to join the professional crew aboard the boat and set sail for Hobart. This year, I was fortunate enough to win a spot, and it’s been a bit of a whirlwind since that day back in June.

To ensure that the four employees are up-to-speed and safe on board the supermaxi, we’ve been through some pretty rigorous training. During our sessions with Pacific Sailing School, we learnt how to use life rafts (including how to swiftly clamber onto them while wearing all our wet weather gear!), deploy flares and swim with inflatable lifejackets in a pool — a slight shift away from my day job as a Development Operations Manager.

I’ve seen firsthand just how talented and professional the LawConnect crew is; they really are exceptional and have made us feel extremely welcome, providing great support. Training with some of the best sailors in the world has been a real privilege, and I must commend my employers, as there’s never been any suggestion of jealousy or annoyance at my extra commitments to the cause. I’ve been allowed to fully embrace the experience and throw myself into it.

Starting as a complete novice meant I’ve had to learn a lot in a short space of time, but with LEAP also offering twilight sailing lessons during summer months for all employees, it’s been a great way to feel more and more comfortable on the water. I’ve really enjoyed the training and the warm-up races (where we’ve done pretty well!), and I feel like I am continually learning and picking up terminology and tactics. Having competed internationally in paragliding competitions, it’s been interesting to see so many parallels between the sports. The race starts, especially with everyone uncomfortably close, jockeying for position, before making a mad dash to the start line.

paul kimber and wenee yap from LEAP legal software on board the lawconnect supermaxi on sydney harbour

Within our mini team of four LEAP employees, we have designated roles to perform. We have a technology specialist, Yehan Gunaratne, who will be responsible for maintaining and running the live stream. Wenee Yap and Ellen Howard will be mainly tasked with ensuring the smooth running of our media component and looking after communications with those on dry land, while I’ll be generally supporting some of the more labour-intensive sailing manoeuvers and making sure all crew members are fed and watered.

paul kimber, yehan gunaratne, wenee yap and ellen howard from LEAP legal software on board the lawconnect supermaxi on sydney harbour

With the big dance less than a week away and all preliminary races now complete, the focus has definitely intensified, and the nerves are starting to slightly kick in. I am obviously hopeful that we can go one better than the team in the previous two editions of the race, but I accept that it will be a tough ask.

All I know is that whatever the result, I’ll have a crazy adventure to share with my family waiting for me at the finish line in Hobart. I appreciate I am one of the lucky ones to have this opportunity, but I’d strongly recommend anyone else thinking about getting into sailing, or looking at this race in particular for the first time, to give it a go. I’ve loved my experience so far and now can’t wait to get on that start line.

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