Will Oxley talks navigation

Appropriately enough, the name Ichi Ban in Japanese means 'No 1' and if your were looking for an ocean racing navigator to get you to No 1 in the race to Hobart, you'd be hard pressed to go past Will Oxley.
Speaker 1: Will Oxley, you've been on the winning team of many very fast boats, but this must be something pretty special.

Will Oxley: Yeah, for an Australian this is the highlight of one's career. Funny thing really, I'm a Marine Biologist, so when people ask you questions about, “oh you're a Marine Biologist? Do you ever see a shark, and how's the Great Barrier Reef?” When people in Australia hear that you're a sailor they go “How many Sydney Hobart's have you done, have you ever won one?” And so that is the first question asked by pretty much, first or second question people ask you as a sailor in Australia. And finally, after 17 attempts to actually get a handicap win, that's a big deal.

Speaker 1: And you were talking before the race a good deal about what you are expecting down the line, and quite a lot of your predictions came pretty much true.

Will Oxley: Well, that is my job. But in my area I'm very lucky to have the support of Squid, the weather team in Belgium, and Christian Dumat is a guy a weather router that I've worked with for many years. So we worked closely together before the start, and of course Clouds, Roger Badham, I've worked with for many years. I've used both of those guys independently, and built on the knowledge that they have. And then, obviously, you do learn which is why plenty of navigators are a bit older than average crew age because experience does matter in this race.

Will Oxley: The credit goes to the guys that were driving the boat in the middle of the night underwater, the instruments went out and they were doing it literally by the seat of their pants. They cannot see anything, they can just feel with their bum whether the boat is heeled over and when to move the tiller.

Speaker 1: And that must be tricky for you navigating in those circumstances, you've not got much room below and its throwing the boat all over the place. How do you deal with that?

Will Oxley: This is the first race though, where I've had problems with GPS signal because the GPSs have been underwater. So, I don't know if you can see the back of the boat there? That's one of the GPSs, and I would lose signal from that because it was underwater. And the other one's on the deck, and we were losing signal for that much of the time. So, that's a little unusual.

Speaker 1: And then presumably you've got to also deal with what happens when sails blow up and then you're having to sail deeper. I gather you guys were having to sail quite deep with a frow, which is not ideal either. So, how do you adjust to those things?

Will Oxley: Yeah, I modify the polar on the fly and then I'm doing the numbers manually in my head, looking at the angles and actually drawing lines on the chart, like old school navigation.

Speaker 1: Just lastly, what's on the game plan for you next?

Will Oxley: Well the next thing, tomorrow I go home and then I'm actually working for one of the Volvo teams doing some weather support for the next league. And then with this boat, with Ichiban, were back into inshore mode. And were trying to win the Australian IRC championships.