Sailing Regatta a Battle of the Corporate High-Flyers

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    Martin & Lisa Hill's Estate Master Leads the Fleet in 2011 Nationals - Rolex_Kurt Arrigo
    The worlds of business and sailing are set to collide this weekend, when an impressive list of corporate high-flyers take to the waters of Sydney Harbour to compete in the 2012 Farr 40 Australian Championship. Accustomed to steering their ASX top-listed companies to success, these business-savvy gentlemen will instead be helming their identical yachts, with all negotiating skills expected to be thrown out the window as they battle to be first to cross the finish line.

    With the likes of Marcus Blackmore (Chairman, Blackmores Ltd), Guido Belgiorno-Nettis (Joint Managing Director, Transfield Holdings), and automotive baron Neville Crichton (Governing Director, ATECO Automotive), the racing is sure to be strategic and technically demanding for all crews under their command. The driving force behind the Farr 40 class in Australia is Martin Hill, Founder and CEO of property software giant Estate Master. Hill is the current Class President, and helmsman aboard his yacht Estate Master, which he co-owns with wife and crew-member Lisa Hill. The duo are a force to be reckoned with – both on the race course and in the Boardroom.

    Neville Crichton is well-known to have a strong competitive streak combined with a need for speed. Having a passion for motor racing, Crichton has evolved from being a professional race car driver to his current position as Governing Director of ATECO Automotive, importers of car brands including Alfa Romeo, Citroen, Fiat, Maserati and Ferrari. His on-water accomplishments speak for themselves, twice steering his yacht Alfa Romeo to line-honours victory in the Sydney – Hobart Yacht Race, as well as a long list of International and National achievements. Crichton narrowly missed out on the Farr 40 World Championship title in 2005, placing second overall. This year he will return to the helm of a Farr 40 aboard Kokomo, standing in for owner Lang Walker (Executive Chairman of Walker Corporation Pty Ltd).

    Marcus Blackmore has no hesitation in calling a spade a spade, a quality which may have contributed to the naming of his yacht “Hooligan”. Nevertheless, a little audacity is no doubt obligatory when running a large publicly-listed company such as Blackmores – and similarly, when in charge of a racing yacht. Market-leaders in health supplements and vitamins, Blackmores employs over 400 staff. Blackmore deems running a large corporation to be no different from the management on board his racing yachts.

    “It is all about the team.” Marcus comments. “Our business success can be attributed to three principles: people, product and passion. At Blackmores, our people are our best asset – and on my yacht I have the best crew. The guy at the back of the boat only contributes a small part towards the overall regatta performance. Next, we need to have the right product. Blackmores would not be a successful company if we were not selling the right product for the market – and on the water we also need to have the right boat. I’m making a guest appearance for this regatta thanks to the generosity of Lang Walker, who has lent me his second boat, and is a great supporter of Farr 40 racing.”

    “The third principle is passion. You need to have passionate people, a team who has an absolute passion for what they are doing. The camaraderie is one of the things I love most about Farr 40 One Design racing. Put all three principles together and you have a winning formula.” With that strategy, the Hooligan team may just have the winning formula for the regatta this weekend.

    Meanwhile, Guido Belgiorno-Nettis is no stranger to the pointy-end of a tough fleet, being the current Farr 40 World Champion and known as ‘the boat to beat’ for this event. From his position as Joint Managing Director of Transfield Holdings, he admits that there are definite time-constraints when juggling the demands of his business, with the preparation required before a major sailing regatta. His impressive juggling act also entails his appointments as Chairman for the Novatec Solar Shareholders’ Committee, Chairman of the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Trustee of the Art Gallery of NSW and Director of the Transfield Foundation. He and his sailing team will use the Australian Championship as a pre-cursor to the Farr 40 World Championship being staged later this year in Chicago, where he will defend his World Championship title.

    Other A-list contenders for the event include Chris Way (CEO / Managing Director of Bridgeport Energy), Sam Hill (leading commercial property expert at John Hill & Co) and Howard and David Lambourne (founders of Skreenkraft Graphics). Most crews have integrated a few top-level professionals to their team, including tacticians and trimmers from various classes at Olympic and International level.

    Six short and sharp races are scheduled to be held inside Sydney Harbour on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th March. The event will be hosted by Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron; hosts of the hugely successful 2011 Australian and World Farr 40 Championships, which were the pinnacle events of the International sailing calendar last year. Eight boats from around Australia have entered the series to contest the 2012 Championship title.

    The first race of the regatta kicks off at 12pm on Saturday, with an intense schedule of racing over two days. As is the nature of Farr 40 One Design racing, the racing will be incredibly close, and every manoeuvre will need to be closely considered. The course area will be set inside Sydney Harbour to ensure spectators can get a great view of the action.

    Event information

    By Erin McKnight