After missing the deadline in 2017, Tribal Warrior Aboriginal Corporation isn’t giving up. Members of the Redfern-based organisation are part of the first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander crew competing in the iconic Boxing Day Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

Setting sail on the Marguerite, a Beneteau 477, the crew, of which over 70 per cent are First Nations Peoples, will be battling one of the world’s toughest sailing races in the hopes to inspire a new generation of sailors.

Consisting of both professional sailors and newcomers to the sport, the crew will be led by skipper Wayne Jones.

With the race date coming closer and funds cutting fine, Mr Jones said nerves are at a high.

“The whole crew is a little bit nervous particularly with all the smoke … we did [also] find out we are falling short with funding … Overall, I think everyone is tense and a bit nervous,” Mr Jones said.

The crew hail from areas such as Redfern, La Perouse, Malabar, Springwood, Chifley, Moree and Coonabarabran. Two new sailors include Moree man, Danny Teece-Johnson and Redfern-born local, Naomi Cain.

“Danny is born and bred in Moree. Danny works for NITV, he had done no sailing prior to joining us. We have been training him up since 2017 – he is used to going down a muddy creek on a tyre tube, so that’s all the training he had. But he is learning the ropes,” Mr Jones said.

“In 2017, we were doing the Gold Coast race and he was with us, and there was an emergency, there was a problem up on the bow of the boat during the night, around 36 knots of wind. I rushed up to clear the problem and I didn’t have my safety harness on, and Danny did. He grabbed me and saved me from going overboard. He is a great bloke.”

“Naomi knows zero about sailing … her family are from Coonabarabran. She’s born in Redfern, the school of hard knocks – she is a single mother and works on the wharfs. We have been doing training with her too.”

The core of the crew are experienced sailors.

“We are from La Perouse area, Yarra Bay Sailing Club. And we have started all sailing there since the 60s, so we have a lot of history racing with each other and against each other for many years,” Mr Jones said.

Mr Jones said entering the race is incredibly powerful for the community around Tribal Warrior.

“They look up to sportsmen and leaders, Tribal Warrior in Redfern do a lot in community, Indigenous and others … all these little branches of how they help out, it isn’t only maritime, it’s health and family matters, they work with police,” Mr Jones said.

“There’s a really good warm feeling going right through Redfern and out about what we are doing. It’s good, everyone is [saying], ‘Look at us, that’s our boat and our family’.”

Tribal Warrior CEO, Shane Phillips, agreed and noted the power it will have on a national and international level.

“It gives us a platform to showcase our culture to Australia and the rest of the world, and helps us send a message that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been sailing up and down the coast for thousands of years,” Mr Phillips said.

The City of Sydney is supporting Tribal Warrior’s voyage, providing $25,000 for safety and sea survival training and wet weather apparel and equipment.

With over 40 years of experience under his belt, this will be Mr Jones’ first Sydney to Hobart skipping.

“It’s my first Hobart, first one as the Skipper although I have many sea hours up racing here and overseas, I think the first one is always the most nervous one. Above all it’s all safety … if you do the simple things right you’ll be okay,” he said.

Tribal Warrior has partnered with motor cruise and racing yacht company EastSail to provide a yacht for the crew.

By Rachael Knowles