Interview: Nick Moloney

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Yachtsman Nick Moloney is a sailing veteran, who has circumnavigated the world three times. He was in Hong Kong recently to take part in the Around the Island Race – and smashed an eight-year-old course record in style. But, by all accounts, his trip to the city was fast in itself. From touching down to meeting his crew for the first time, to breaking the race record, to heading off again took the sailor less than a week.

Certainly, Moloney is no stranger to records – he’s the round-the-world record holder. Perhaps that helped him during his stint as skipper of the Aberdeen Extreme 40 catamaran in the Around the Island Race on November 14. This popular annual race saw more than 250 boats of all specifications circumnavigating Hong Kong Island. Strong winds on race day, triggered by the edges of the massively destructive Typhoon Haiyan, made the event difficult – but fast. Moloney led the team to smash the record by 30 minutes, completing the circuit in two hours, 13minutes and 11 seconds.

Congrats, Nick! How did you prepare the crew and what were the challenging elements during the race?
Just preparing the team was obviously very difficult, because we didn’t have a lot of time. We were very fortunate that the guys all flocked in together very well. We knew there’d be too much wind for the boat, so on Sunday we set out a very clear plan as to how we would deal with the strong conditions around the course – and it worked very well for us.

What’s so special about the Extreme 40 catamaran you sailed?
The boat has been involved in the Volvo Ocean Race. Basically, it was originally designed to put on display sailing. And then that rolled into a series called The Extreme Sailing Series. We call it stadium sailing – where we sail very close to the shore so spectators can see from the grandstand. That was the main purpose for the boat. I’ve sailed the boat for five years. Just because it is so fast, it’s just given me so many great memories at sea with heart-stopping tides. It’s been a very exciting boat to sail, for sure.

There were more than 250 vessels in this race, so how did you guys manage to break the record so convincingly?
The Aberdeen Extreme 40’s draw-card really is what we call its power-to-weight ratio. We have a lot of sail area. The boat is super light, because everything is made of carbon-fibre, and that’s why it’s great for speed, and we can be faster than everyone else. But the downside of that is because it’s large, it’s very fragile. When we were coming to the finish, we were lashing with rope; tying parts of the boat back together because the boat was starting to break. It was a real challenge for us to simply finish. We were lucky.

How did you feel about sailing around Hong Kong Island, compared with the other extreme nautical adventures you have undertaken?
The Around the Island Race was really a difficult race. It was very windy all the way from the start to the finish. The east side of the island had big waves but there was a very light wind across the south side. I like being a person who has sailed around the world. It’s a strange thing but if I sail out to a point and back to the same point, it doesn’t quite feel the same. Now, when I look at Hong Kong Island, I go ‘wow, I’ve sailed around it faster than anybody has ever before’. It’s a real thrill. We are here for the record, this is what we want.

To you personally, what’s the most unforgettable challenge at sea?
If I had to pick one, I think one of my greatest sporting victories at sea was winning the 2002 Route Du Rhum – the largest solo race in the world, sailing from France to Guadalupe. I almost drowned and died just before that race... but eventually I won the race and set a new course record. That was a really special win to me. I like that process of making people believe that anything is possible.

Stephanie Lo

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