Workplace Culture | 5 min

LawConnect rules the seas to claim maiden Sydney Hobart victory

January 2, 2024

Blog title card with LawConnect supermaxi sailing in the Tasman Sea

We did it!

28th of December 2023 will be a day that will live long in the memory for the LawConnect supermaxi crew, including the four LEAP Group employees on board, as they claimed an unbelievable victory in the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

LEAP Group employees Yehan Gunaratne, Ellen Howard, Wenee Yap and Paul Kimber on board LawConnect supermaxi at Woolwich DockClockwise from top-left: Ellen Howard, Yehan Gunaratne, Wenee Yap and Paul Kimber.

Owned and skippered by Christian Beck, LawConnect secured the coveted line honours, crossing the finish line a mere 51 seconds ahead of pre-race favourites, Andoo Comanche. The thrilling finale unfolded as one of tense excitement, marking the second-closest finish of all time.

Having claimed second place in the two previous editions, LawConnect defied all expectations as it emerged victorious on the open seas. Even with Beck expressing reservations about the supermaxi’s chances in the buildup to the race, the impeccable teamwork of the crew, coupled with strategic brilliance and unwavering nerves, propelled the yacht to claim the coveted line honours prize. The race ended up being one of the most thrilling and eventful in decent years.

However, it certainly wasn't plain sailing for the LawConnect crew and others competing in this year’s race. Unfavourable weather conditions made for a slower-than-average trip across the Tasman and some uncomfortable moments aboard the yacht.

By day, Ellen Howard assumes the role of General Counsel and Privacy Officer at LEAP; however, as a LawConnect crew member, her responsibilities involved overseeing content and media as well as preparing meals for the crew. She described the chaos that unfolded during the race, triggered by wild stormy weather.

"The first evening was very exciting! We went through a lightning storm, it was a bit eerie, and admittedly with the enormous mast as a potential lightning rod, it made me a bit nervous. Then sheets of rain started coming down, gusts of wind, water everywhere. It was absolutely incredible to watch the team under those conditions, completely calm, moving around the boat, continuing to change sails in the midst of all of that.

“You can see by the number of retirements that the conditions were pretty severe. We suffered some damage ourselves and our live stream went down for a few hours as a consequence, but it probably worked out well for us in terms of the race result.

“Our crew are the best of the best and always in complete control, so I never felt unsafe, or had any doubts that we’d be fine. My main job during the storm was to try and stay out of the way and make sure the kettle is always hot!”

While the conditions may not have made for a pleasant journey for the LawConnect crew, it made for an excellent spectacle as it quickly became apparent that winning line honours was a two-horse race. However, it was anyone’s guess which team would come out on top, with the lead consistently changing hands.

Competing in his 20th Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, one might assume that Boat Captain Ty Oxley has seen it all when it comes to the iconic race. Yet, despite his seasoned experience, Oxley found himself astonished by the unfolding events, a testament to the unpredictable nature of the race.

“The storm made it a far tricker race than most that I have experienced, and enormous credit should go to Tony and Nico (Sailing Master Tony Mutter and Tactician Chris Nicholson) and the amazing crew work of our team for getting us through those rocky conditions and pipping Andoo Comanche on that final morning.

“I thought we had an outside chance but would need to have the race of our lives as a crew and rely on a few other factors to go in our favour and it just so came to pass. It’s the most satisfying race and victory I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of and it was nice to celebrate with the crew accordingly in Hobart!”

Revolutionising the traditional race narrative, LawConnect not only livestreamed the race but also invited four handpicked LEAP Group employees to be part of the crew. In recent years, the LEAP Group has broken barriers with this unique approach to the race, aimed at promoting sailing to a wider demographic. The LEAP Group also hosts twilight sailing session during the summer months, encouraging staff and their family and friends to learn the ropes of the sport (literally). The four LEAP Group employees who competed in the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race are eager to continue participating in the sport, building upon their life-changing experience.

After enduring a few years of being the bridesmaid, owner and skipper Christian Beck was visibly delighted with bucking the recent trend as he capped off an incredible few weeks on a personal level.

“I am absolutely over the moon that we managed to do it! As people well know, I didn’t give us a huge hope of getting over the line first but what an amazing effort from the entire crew to ensure that happened.

“Having had a baby a few weeks before the start of the race, I haven’t been as involved in the build-up this year, but it capped off a brilliant few weeks for me, and actually meant I caught up on sleep during the race!

“The crew were unbelievable for the duration of the race; they were ultimately the deciding factor in getting over the line first this year. A massive thanks to all of them and their hard work and amazing spirit.”

As the dust has settled on a truly memorable race, victorious LEAP Group employees have seamlessly transitioned back to their desks and day-to-day responsibilities, while the professional crew members are looking ahead to their next thrilling challenge. Regardless of the future accomplishments that await them, both on and off the water, none of them will ever forget that glorious morning of 28th December 2023, when they were the talk of Australia.

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