Sydney Hobart 2012 – Gold medalist looks for more sailing challenges

Sailors with Disabilities on Day 1 of the 2012 Rolex Sydney Hobart
ROLEX-Carlo Borlenghi
The fast and furious nature of their latest Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race adventure makes Australian Paralympian sailing Gold medallist Liesl Tesch and the DisABILITIES crew craving for more 628-nautical mile voyages in the future.

Just minutes after completing her second Rolex Sydney Hobart, one of Australia’s most successful athletes, Liesl Tesch, has confirmed her sights are set on her seventh Paralympic Games.

It’s the speed that did it in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s race this year though. Racing in excess of 25 knots on board the TP52, Sailors with DisABILITIES, in the 628 nautical mile southern dash has well and truly affirmed Tesch’s addiction to the sport of sailing.

In a move that many would consider certifiable, she’ll be back on board the yacht in less than 48 hours to take her back to Sydney - after a couple of rums and scallop pies, of course.

'Getting 41 knots from behind and going 25.1 knots downhill as the full moon rose and a rainbow broke from the moonlight; how magical is that,’’ she said.

It was a much tougher Sydney Hobart for Tesch, who is an incomplete paraplegic as a result of a bike accident in 1988, compared to her debut race in 2009.

First, there was a bout of sea sickness coming out of Sydney Harbour that not even her tried and tested cure-all of miso soup could help.

Then there were the violent conditions, brewed by a sou’wester off Tasmania’s east coast, which added to the challenge of racing the notoriously temperamental TP52. Though the only sign of any physical toll is Tesch’s chipped nail. Even they’re sailing inspired - her left hand is painted red for the port side, and her right is green for starboard.

'We got smashed harder and in different ways than what we did last time,’’ she said.

Liesl Tesch and her life partner Mark Thomson
ROLEX-Carlo Borlenghi


'It makes finishing that little bit sweeter. It’s an overwhelming feeling; you just feel these bursts of joy coming out of you.'

The crew crossed the finish line at Hobart’s Castray Esplanade just after 0900hours AEDT, after three days, 20 hours, four minutes and two seconds at sea.

It’s a far cry from racing the two-person SKUD dinghy at the London Paralympic Games, where Tesch won gold with her skipper Dan Fitzgibbon. It was her sixth Paralympics, having scored two silvers and a bronze as a member of the wheelchair basketball team, the Gliders.

'In the Paralympics I was a perfectly trained monkey,' she said laughing. 'There were just six pieces of string to pull; one tiny little boat. This thing is so big and so complex, it’s really challenging to take in all the things going on.'

Now, she’s turning her sights to the Rio Games in 2016. 'Rio’s always been on my mind, I’ll get back to that now,’’ she said.