Thursday, 15 January 2009

A Night with the Hoff.

Freya Hoffmeister, Sharon Betteridge, Rob Mercer & I enjoying a few pre-circumnavigation drinks.

I had the great pleasure of spending an evening with Freya Hoffmeister, the famed lady in black, who is about to attempt to emulate Paul Caffyn & circumnavigate Australia. This Sunday, all going well, she will depart Queenscliff in Victoria & paddle anti-clockwise 20000+km around the continent. Most Europeans have a vague notion about the size of our wide brown land, but Freya is under no illusions about the scale of her odyssey. Breaking her trip into sections, you can just barely get an idea of what she will face. Starting with a 2500km stretch from Victoria up through the East Coast surf zone where just about every single day you will have a very serious surf landing & exit with a fully loaded boat. Factor in the afternoon Nor'easterlies that predominate through the 2 months of her journey north, & her goal of 60km + per day, & she will have very early starts & a very solid pace to beat the demoralising headwinds. Then the 'pleasure' of the protected reef zone, with the onset of the trade winds, 25-30 knot daily winds which produce technical, almost surfing following paddling conditions. Then the vast loneliness of the top end, with the crocs, huge tidal zones, heat & humidity, & the lack of regular re-stock. Consider that this stretches right across the top of the continent, eventually giving way to the rugged WA coast, with it's unbroken cliffs stretching as far as 130km at a time. Clear that & you hit probably the biggest surf zone in the country, down through Margaret River & Esperance, where 16 second wave periods create miles of unlandable surf, then turn the corner to the Great Australian Bight for the 'run home'. Don't be surprised if this lady has a go at a 'complete' circumnavigation if she makes it as far as western Victoria. I'll leave it to the Einstein’s to work out what that might entail....
So, from being a bit skeptical about this attempt, I now think she has as good a chance as anyone I have come across to pull it off. Her apprenticeship looping the South Island of NZ was a microcosm of the sorts of paddling she can expect in Australian waters. If experience, drive, determination & out & out focus (hate that word…) count for anything, I reckon she will give this thing a bloody good shake. Keep an eye on her journey through her blog.
Go Freya….!

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