DESPITE only sailing for six years, Carmen Irwin (38) is about to tackle one of the most difficult yacht races in the world – the Sydney to Hobart Race.
The prestigious annual race, which has been held since 1945, will see yachts from all around the globe sail the 1170km course from Boxing Day to as late as New Years Eve.
Irwin’s love for sailing began at the age of four when she lived with her grandparents off the southern coast of SA and weekends were spent as a passenger cruising the Murray River.
But in 2013, she started to take the reigns while pursuing her husband’s love of sailing, and found her own love for the sport.
“While racing is something we do often, it is the cruising aspect of sailing I particularly love and has enabled me to experience some very special places along the WA coastline,” the Heathridge resident said.
“Being off the grid – it’s incredible being out in the open air and away from the hustle and bustle.
“There is nothing like just being on the deep blue sea with the sounds of the wind and the sea – and no noisy engine.”
Irwin said when she was asked by a colleague to join their Sydney to Hobart Race team, it was not a decision she took lightly.
“But after some serious thought it was a choice I made with the full intent to improve my sailing ability but also, and more importantly, to use this as a platform to create awareness and funds for Conquer Cystic Fibrosis,” she said.
“Our very dear friends gave birth to a beautiful baby girl back in 2010 but little did we know Kirra would be diagnosed at five days of age with the most common life threatening genetic condition affecting Australians today.
“There is still no cure and the average life expectancy in Australia is currently 37 – the age I have just passed.
“My friends were both completely unaware they were gene carriers. If people know they are gene carriers they can make educated and informed decisions when planning for a family.
“Through technology and research there have been several advances in cystic fibrosis medicines, but we still have a long way to go before we can treat all types of cystic fibrosis and find a cure.”
Irwin, who has been a committee member of Conquer Cystic Fibrosis for the past five years, will be one of two females in the crew of 12 to sail the Sydney 46-foot boat Mahligai in one of the CYCA Blue Water Pointscore divisions.
She said preparing for the race had been difficult because the boat was based in Sydney.
“But I have had several trips over there for training and racing, which included a 58-hour sailing race from Sydney to Southport in Queensland and I have also completed a two-day survival at sea course,” she said.
The Ocean Reef Sea Sports Club member believes her biggest challenge will be fatigue coupled with “the focus we will have to maintain for what we are estimating to be around four full days”.
“I also suffer from sea-sickness so have medication that I am hoping will keep the nausea at bay,” she said.
“And I am keeping everything crossed there is not a one-in-20-years storm some people have mentioned.”
However, Irwin said she was “really excited and proud to be sailing with such a great crew”.
“It is also extra special as this year will be the 75th Sydney to Hobart Race, so I feel lucky to be a part of it,” she said.
“And next year my husband and I will be building a catamaran with the intent of sailing the world, so I hope to develop my skills and experience sailing in different weather conditions.”
To donate to Conquer Cystic Fibrosis, visit www.gofundme.com/f/sydney-to-hobart-sail-for-cystic-fibrosis.