After more than a decade away from offshore racing, Jules Hall is relishing his return to the Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race fleet.
With four Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Races and multiple Noakes Sydney Gold Coasts under his belt, Jules is certainly no stranger to blue water racing.
But a switch to Laser racing in 2010 proved fruitful, leading the Englishman to state titles, national podiums and globe trotting for the Laser Masters World Championships.
Now Jules will race two-handed on his latest incarnation of Disko Trooper_Contender Sailcloth – a J/99 – alongside Jan 'Clogs' Scholten, a Laser Masters world champion and Etchells national champion.
"Lockdown came in last year and I’d been looking at a shorthanded program overseas, which really piqued my interest," Jules says.
"I love the offshore and the idea of sailing shorthanded – the physical and mental challenge is really appealing.
"I haven’t done the Noakes Sydney Gold Coast for more than 10 years, so I’ve been reliant on research and conversations with other competitors, as well as a lot of routine modelling.
"The bit I think we’re going to have to learn about is what it’s like on days two and three from a physical and mental perspective; that’s where we have less experience."
Jules has spent 2021 getting to know Disko Trooper_Contender Sailcloth, though race experience has been hard to come by, with her first scheduled shakedown sail – the Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race – cancelled following the NSW floods.
With plenty of training miles under their belt, Jules is confident Disko Trooper_Contender Sailcloth can make an instant impact.
"I’m quite excited about the race," he says. "I’m maybe a little wary - it’s a small boat for open ocean sailing.
"But we’ve done a lot of miles on her so far and she’s very seaworthy. She also goes quite fast, which is fun.
"We’ve been up and down the coast a bit, training out at sea a reasonable amount, but we’re ready to really start ramping it up now."
Although the Noakes Sydney Gold Coast will be a very different proposition to Laser sailing, Jules won’t be discounting the experience he’s gained on the world stage over the last 10 years.
"I’m blending my Laser experience with my previous crewed offshore sailing experience, so it’s quite interesting bringing those two things together," he adds.
"I think your holistic knowledge of the race course is significantly enhanced by Laser sailing.
"I’ve got to delve into the memory archives to remember how to manage myself physically and mentally in the offshore when the weather is bad, or when the weather is light for a long period and it’s frustrating.
"It’s how you manage yourself, manage your energy levels so you’re in a position to make good decisions when you’re not expecting to make good decisions."
Competition will be strong in the Noakes Sydney Gold Coast, with eight boats already entered for the race’s first ever two-handed division.
Jules and Clogs are ready to soak up all the experience they can in the first step of their two-handed journey.
"We want to go fast, so you need someone who has a shared ambition," Jules says.
"There will be times when each of us is low on energy or morale and we’ll need to pick each other up. Then there will be times when we’re both riding high and we’ll enjoy it.
"We know each other well, but there will be things to learn in that regard. Building that experience of sailing together is critical in shorthanded offshore racing.
"When there are only two of you, you have to be hungry, determined and driven to make it happen.
"It does attract a certain type of person."
Entries for the 2021 Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race close at 1700hrs on Friday 16 July.