After the unique experience of being on the bridge of the 152,000 tonne cruise liner, Queen Mary 2, and guiding her out of New York Harbour, Dan Oatley’s life is about to go to another extreme: being in the wet and water-logged “sewer” of the 28 tonne supermaxi, Wild Oats XI, for the Rolex Sydney Hobart race.
Remarkably, he’s more excited about the latter than when he was as a 22-year-old at the helm of Queen Mary 2.
“From the day Wild Oats XI was launched I’ve wanted to do a Hobart race as part of the crew, but unfortunately my career path towards becoming a master mariner prevented me from being involved,” said Dan, who is the grandson of the late Bob “Popeye” Oatley, who had the yacht built in 2005.
“Every time I watched the boys sail her out of Sydney Harbour at the start of a Hobart race I would wish I was on board. Now that time has come, and I can’t wait for the start gun to sound.”
Dan’s position on the yacht is referred to as “sewer man”: he’ll be the man standing in the bilge below the fore hatch, hauling down the massive headsails and spinnakers, often while waves wash across the deck and cascade below, drenching him.
It’s a far cry from his accommodation while working aboard a luxury liner like the Queen Mary 2, but he prefers it.
“Ships are work for me, while being aboard Wild Oats XI is the ultimate sailing experience. It’s playing in the big league.”
Dan has a special honour this year: he is the first member of the Oatley family to race to Hobart aboard the record breaking yacht. Bob Oatley, who passed away on January 10 this year, was never able to participate due to a medical condition.
“Popeye would be very proud of me,” Dan added.
Now aged 29, Dan has just become one of the youngest commercial mariners in the world to receive an Unrestricted Ship Masters Licence.
Seafaring is in his family blood. His mother’s great grandfather was the captain of large commercial ships while his father, Ian, has been sailboat racing from a very young age.
In his 11 years as a mariner, Dan has seen many milestones. He was the first Australian employed to work as a Navigation Officer aboard Queen Mary 2, has been to the North Pole and crossed all the world’s major oceans, including the Atlantic on 14 occasions.
When the Rolex Sydney Hobart is complete Dan will return to being the captain of a superyacht. In recent times he has sailed a 50 metre long schooner from the Maldives to Dubai and been chief officer aboard a 120 metre long superyacht which was on an extended cruise.
This afternoon Wild Oats XI’s skipper, Mark Richards, declared the yacht was “locked, loaded and ready” for the start of the 628 nautical mile dash to Hobart.
Wild Oats XI was put through her final pre-race trial on Sydney Harbour yesterday. A new large jib was tested as was a modified asymmetrical spinnaker.
For more information contact:
Media Manager – Wild Oats XI
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Image by Andrea Francolini