Crew member on the vessel Wings, Laura Stoltenberg was able to sail in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race out of Sydney over New Year.
Crew member on the vessel Wings, Laura Stoltenberg was able to sail in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race out of Sydney over New Year. Marc Stapelberg

YACHT DRAMA: Sailor recalls trip of a lifetime

Sydney Hobart Yacht Race competitor: DESPITE nearly losing a crew member overboard and some “intense” sailing conditions, racing in the 2018 Sydney Hobart Yacht Race was a dream come true for Laura Stoltenberg.
Sydney Hobart Yacht Race competitor: DESPITE nearly losing a crew member overboard and some “intense” sailing conditions, racing in the 2018 Sydney Hobart Yacht Race was a dream come true for Laura Stoltenberg.

DESPITE nearly losing a crew member overboard and some "intense" sailing conditions, racing in the 2018 Sydney Hobart Yacht Race was a dream come true for Laura Stoltenberg.

It was excitement from the starting line at Sydney Harbour for Miss Stoltenberg and the crew on board the mid-fleet 46 foot Dehler yacht Wings, with 78 other yachts and a tight race around the first mark, to "champagne sailing flying kites" all along the NSW coast.

"The start was amazing. For a lot of the skippers it's the biggest thing because they've worked so hard just to get to the starting line," Miss Stoltenberg said.

"The top speed of the trip was 22 knots, averaging 7.6 over the whole race which took three days, 11 hours, six minutes and 47 seconds.

"We covered 250 miles in the first 24 hours and we did really well, leading our division (Corinthian) for the first day or two, with a final sixth place and 50th out of 79 boats across the finish line. For a cruiser race yacht it's a great placing, we were all happy."

But all hands were on deck at 4am on the last night, when a strong but short-lived storm caused the crew to lose a spinnaker (sails) at sea in 8m waves and wind gusts up to 35 knots.

"There was five of us holding on it," she said. "It nearly ripped the one guy overboard because he had it wrapped around his wrist and couldn't let it go quick enough ... I just saw him flying and yelled 'hold on'.

The crew had no choice but to let the spinnaker go completely.

"It was worth about $15,000," she said. "We had another spinnaker but we also broke the spinnaker pole trying to save it which affected the rest of the race."

Securing a crew position on Wings was an achievement in itself for the 30-year-old Lismore-based German national, who took up sailing seriously about two years ago at the Richmond Sailing Club in Ballina.

"The race is one of those things you dream about if you get serious about sailing. Thank you to my mentor Michael Wiley from the Richmond Sailing Club," Miss Stoltenberg said.