Aiming and Training for Hobart
Kristi has her sights set on sailing in this year’s Sydney - Hobart race. She shares her experiences of training for one of the world’s toughest yacht races…
It takes dedication and a lot of books to sit on a train for 10 hours and travel from Coffs Harbour to Sydney every Saturday. But that’s what Kristi Foster has been doing for the last twelve weeks as part of her preparation to fulfill her and her Dad’s dream of taking part in this year’s Sydney – Hobart race – the Everest of competitive yacht racing.
Kristi’s journey to Hobart began over 5 years ago when the Sailing With disABILITIES boat sailed into Coffs Harbour as part of its Northern Campaign. At this stage, Kristi was in a wheelchair, but SWD made her realize that a wheelchair wasn’t an obstacle to getting on the water. “I just needed a distraction to get past the pain and sailing did just that,” said Kristi. “I very quickly decided that I liked sailing and that I could do it.” This was the start of Kristi’s passion for sailing and all things SWD.
It wasn’t long before Kristi was taking her professional Coxswain’s commercial sailing exams and delivering boats up and down the Eastern seaboard. She is also now the proud owner of her own boat – a 34 foot Catalina – bought with her proceeds of selling her home. Sailing has not only helped rekindle Kristi’s drive and lust for life, but it also helped to improve her fitness: Kristi has lost over 50 kg.
In the last 5 years, Kristi has achieved many of her sailing goals and she is now working towards achieving the next one, the big one - being one of the SWD crew that leaves for Hobart on Boxing Day.
As part of the SWD Hobart training, Kristi has been sailing every Sunday with the SWD crew on Kayle, taking part in the Cruising Yacht Club’s winter racing series on Sydney Harbour. She has also taken part in one overnight event, which was a real eye opener even for an experienced sailor such as Kristi. The heat down below and having to wake up and move from one side of the boat to the other when the boat changed course during the night were just some of the discomforts that Kristi had to cope with.
Despite these occasional discomforts, Kristi loves being part of the Hobart training team. “It’s instant family. They’re my brothers and my sisters. They’re all awesome,” said Kristi. “I am a team player and always have been. I can be a follower and a leader and I am happy in both roles.”
As the stringer, Kristi works with other crew members at the front and back of the boat to hoist and lower the sails and with others to trim them to maximize speed – it’s a central position on the boat. Kristi loves the analytical and mental aspects of the role and the opportunity the training gives to be a better sailor. She also enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience with other team members.
When Kristi was growing up her father was an outward bound course instructor and Kristi took part in a variety of outdoor pursuits. One of her earliest memories is abseiling with her parents at the age of three. Kristi credits her father for “building” her, for helping her to take a different perspective to problem solving which can be invaluable when tackling problems in the confines of a boat.
For Kristi it’s only when the training has finished and the team has gone home that the real challenges begin. “The sailing is hard but in comparison it’s relatively easy. Being alone is the really hard part,” said Kristi. “The alone time after sailing was daunting at first but it’s getting easier.” With the support of her old friends back home and new ones in Sydney Kristi is beginning to enjoy her own company and sees this part of her Hobart preparation as one of the biggest challenges of the year - learning to be comfortable in her own skin.
Leaving friends and family behind in Coffs is just one of the sacrifices that Kristi is making. There is also the fatigue from all the training and travelling. But Kristi is dismissive about these, preferring to focus on what she has gained over the last 12 weeks.
“Anyone can do this if they really wanted to,” said Kristi. "It’s a just a matter of what obstacles you have to get over. For most people they have to get over the work thing. But I have to get over the pain. I have to push past the physical, mental and spiritual boundaries to do this but this is what I need and this is what I want."
As part of her Sydney - Hobart preparation, Kristi is taking part in the SWD Northern Campaign. This is when the SWD boat sails north from Sydney stopping along the way as it makes its journey up the coast. At each stop, SWD welcomes on board disabled or disadvantaged children, teens and adults and their care givers and takes them for a sail, allowing everyone to enjoy the experience of being on the water.
For Kristi, SWD is not just about the Hobart preparation, it’s a life time commitment. SWD has lit a fire in her soul. “I love the SWD Winds of Change and the Try Sails programs, taking disabled kids and disadvantage teens out sailing. If it inspires just one person – SWD is doing a great job.”
Kristi will find out on 1st November whether she has been selected to be part of the SWD Hobart crew.