RSHYR 2017: Free at sea

RSHYR 2017: Free at sea
Rolex Sydney Hobart Press Conference Launch 2017 - ©Andrea Francolini

2017 wasn’t Kevin Miller’s first Sydney Hobart but it will most likely be one of his most emotional. Just weeks prior to his marathon to Tasmania, the American watched as California wildfires engulfed and destroyed his home, leaving him and his family with little more than the clothes on their backs.

Miller’s debut year in the Rolex Sydney Hobart was a different kettle of fish, in 2007 he was on board Rosebud as a watch captain when Roger Sturgeon's ST TP 65 took the overall win.

Fast forward ten years and Miller led the crew of Dorade, the 1930 S&S design, under skipper Matt Brooks, from Sydney Harbour to Constitution Dock, ticking the final box in the boat’s exceptional offshore racing CV.

His preparation for the race however, had been as far from ideal as you could imagine. Following the CYCA’s Bird Island race at the start of December, Miller flew back to his family in their hometown of Ventura, arriving at this house at 9am. Just 12 hours later the evacuation warning came, three hours after that, his house had burned to the ground.

More than 500 homes in his community were destroyed after wildfires spread 20 miles in 3 hours, with just 22 firefighters to cover the area. In the following days thousands more emergency teams were deployed to tackle the raging blazes but for Miller and his family, it was already too late.

“We have lost everything. The only clothes I had were the Dorade clothes in the bag that I had just flown in with. I hadn’t even unpacked it. The day after we got out, we could move our entire family (Miller is married with three children) in 5-10 minutes. It’s a pretty emotional time.”

Despite his adversities, Miller got back to work a few weeks later and travelled to Sydney to reunite with the crew of Dorade, to take on the Rolex Sydney Hobart in the oldest boat in the fleet.

Speaking after arriving in Hobart where they finished second on IRC division 4 and ORCi division 4, Miller commented, “It was really good for me because I was focused only on the race. Then it wasn’t until yesterday when I started getting all the emails again from insurance companies....”

“It was great it really kept my mind off it. The Hobart race more than any other race I’ve been in, requires that of you. It’s too dynamic. You can’t give it 90%, if forces you, whether you want to or not, to give it 100%.”

An obviously emotional Miller, tired from a gruelling race and joined by his family in Tasmania, maintained the positive outlook which is no doubt the source of his great sailing talent.

“It’s going to make us better. Anything hard you go through in life, if you manage to come out the other side, you are a better person. You have a better understanding. You’re more tolerant.”

Ross Macdonald