Times were a lot different when Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron veteran David Henshall raced in the Adelaide to Port Lincoln Yacht Race for the first time. There was no GPS technology, with sailors using dead-reckoning navigation techniques to calculate their position, the water-proof gear was not quite as warm and the race was often slower and wetter with 30-foot yachts beating to windward at less than five knots.
But even ahead of this year's Club Marine/Lexus Adelaide to Port Lincoln Yacht Race, Henshall's excitement for competing in South Australia's premier ocean race has not changed – he is still looking forward to it just as much as his first.
At the ripe age of 73, Henshall has purchased a new boat, a J122 racer/cruiser called Aria and will be racing over with a crew of about six, which includes his two sons Bruce and Paul.
He said the Adelaide to Port Lincoln was something he always enjoyed racing in and even after many years of committing himself to Etchell sailing, it was something he had always come back to several times. “We'd take Lara, a Cavalier 395, to Lincoln every now and then,” he said. “We never had a highly trained overnight crew but finished up in the first 10 most times.”
This will be the first Adelaide to Port Lincoln race for Henshall in his new boat and he said there were still a few things he was getting used to, mainly learning to sail with an asymmetric spinnaker. He said his sons were also going to be great assets to the team, with one of them a very good trimmer and the other having the electronic smarts to take over the navigation duties. But when asked what the best feeling about sailing in an Adelaide to Port Lincoln race was, Henshall simply said “when you get there!”.
He said Port Lincoln was a great place with a welcoming club and an enjoyable culture and he had always celebrated in the right spirit after finishing a race over.
Henshall said over time he had seen the race change quite a bit, from a race sailed predominantly by 30-footers in the early days to a race now dominated by boats in the 40-foot range with several appearances from powerful 50-plus foot racing yachts likeSecret Men's Business and Scarlet Runner in recent years.
He said the strength of the event, especially for sailors who were also interested in cruising, was always going to be in the 40-foot range.
“It's always a bit difficult for clubs like Port Lincoln to keep on pulling the really big boats,” he said. “I bought a J122 because it's reasonably quick, but it's still a respectable cruising boat.”
Henshall is just one of many sailors in the twilight of their careers racing in this year's race, but he said it just went to show that sailing was a sport for everyone and the Adelaide to Port Lincoln race was something anyone could take part in and enjoy.
“I just like feeling six or seven tonnes of boat ploughing to windward as fast as you can get it to go – there's no greater feeling,” he said.
– Harry Fisher