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December 29, 2011
Sydney to Hobart 2011, Newcastle Paralympian aboard winning vessel

Investec Loyal was announced the official winner of the 2011 Sydney to Hobart yacht race after a protest by the Race Committee was dismissed (Photo/AndreaFrancolini/Getty images).
by Dominick Czakilew, FISU/AIPS young reporter (Australia)

HOBART, December 29, 2011 - Newcastle Paralympian Kurt Fearnley said winning the Sydney to Hobart yacht race felt like winning Paralymipic Gold. Fearnley was a crew member on board Investec Loyal which finished the race three minutes ahead of Wild Oats XI. The victory did not come without its problems. It was challenged by the race committee on Wednesday on grounds that a crew member spoke to an ABC helicopter pilot about the condition of a competitor's sail.

An international Jury chaired by Australian John Kirkjian, especially set up for the Sydney to Hobart race dismissed the protest, stating the communication was of a business nature. The protest did not affect Fearnley’s excitement.

Even in wheelchair racing when those things happen, it doesn't worry me. All I can do is race and let the rest happen. But whatever happens, this experience can't be taken away,” he said.

The Paralympic gold medallist says winning the race is an experience he will never forget.

"It's been terrifying, it's been hard, exhausting, fun and everything in between,” Fearnley said.

This year’s Sydney to Hobart yacht race was extremely challenging, competitors had to cope with nasty frontal waves which saw many crew members get sea sick in the early stages of the race. The Investec Loyal crew included former Australia Rugby nationals Phil Kearns and Phil Waugh and Rugby League star Anthony Munichiello.

Kurt Fearnley will fly back to Newcastle tonight to continue training for upcoming events.

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