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James Walker navigates Celestial to a Top 10 finish in the 2015 Sydney to Hobart

A week out from the 2015 Sydney to Hobart yacht race the weather models were looking very tough for the boats and crew.

A big low looked likely to develop on day 2 just as the majority of the fleet was entering Bass Strait, bringing with it steep headwinds, rolling ocean and more than a few green-faced crew members.

James Walker, Managing Director at Computer One and Navigator on the yacht “Celestial” had a wry smile on his face as he described the forecast conditions to the Computer One helpdesk team. The final comment was probably most appropriate: “you don’t do it because it’s pleasant,” he said, “you do it for the challenge”.

The weather delivered, with the toughest going in more than a decade. 31 yachts from the field of 108 failed to finish. A broken femur, head injuries and heavy bruising were among the injuries treated. The race-winning yacht, Comanche, had a broken rudder as it limped across the line.

The end result for Celestial? A top ten finish in position 9.

It was a good result, but James says “we (I) didn’t quite get the strategy right, because we went looking for wind that failed to materialise. Unfortunately, by the time that it’s apparent that your first plan didn’t work, there’s no way to make up the gap.”

“I’m pleased with a Top 10 finish and proud of the crew that prepared an immaculate boat, and got her through the race. And I’m pretty keen to get out there again and improve next time.”


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