“So I thought, you know, let’s keep going on, so we’ve been chipping away, and here we are in 2019, we’re ready.”
After the setback, the Cruising Yacht Club was able to provide the crew with a boat in 2016, so they could make the trip to Hobart alongside the official entrants. Despite not being recognised as being part of the race, the Tribal Warrior crew were able to put their year of training to use and were told last minute that they were welcome to cross the finish line unofficially.
Crew member Assen Timbery described the “unbelievable” moment when one of the crew played the didgeridoo off the bow of the boat as they pulled into Constitution dock.
“All you could see was Aboriginal flags, we couldn’t believe how many people were waiting,” he said. “The reception we got when we got into the dock, anyone would have thought we’d won.”
It’s a moment the Tribal Warrior crew are hoping to replicate on official terms this year. If the eleven-person crew manage to cross the finish line, it will be the first time a majority Indigenous crew will finish the Sydney to Hobart.
“When we cross that line, it’s just going to be unreal, just to see all our people there who recognise what we have done and the effort,” Timbery said.
With eight Indigenous members, Timbery hopes the crew can show that sailing is not just a “rich man’s sport”.
“It costs an arm and a leg, there’s not a lot of Aboriginal people with that amount of money,” he said. “What I’m trying to do with this, is try and give the kids a pathway through where they can come and sail with us and find out if they like it.”
Tribal Warrior chief executive Shane Phillips said a three-year fundraising effort was required for the crew to compete again.
“Unfortunately, it’s taken us this long,” he said. “[Fundraising] is really hard and it drains you … we are still trying to raise the money to get everything; all the safety equipment, to make sure that even there’s a flight back for everyone, so we are at that stage and it’s a lot of work in.”
The crew have chartered the Beneteau 47.7 Marguerite, which will be renamed Tribal Warrior for the occasion.
“Our biggest goal here is that we cross that finish line and that a bunch of Indigenous kids see that there is a spot in sailing for them,” Phillips said.
Sarah is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald.