My Sydney-Hobart

Mike Austin

South East
Notice Period:
Short (maybe less than one month's notice)
Charity, Probus, Rotary, Yacht Clubs, U3A
30th April 2019
Sailing | Adventure

I tell the story of how I came to take part in my first ever yacht race, a Blue Water Classic, while undergoing self administered chemotherapy for NH Lymphoma in 1994.  This was known only by the skipper as I did not want the crew to treat me differently.  I also talk of the extra training I went through before my departure to Sydney.  For example, I obtained the Ship Captain's Medical qualification at the Warsash Maritime College enabling me to act as medic on an ocean going commercial vessel.  I also talk about the events following the race which changed my life forever.

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About Mike Austin

I was raised in Surfers Paradise, Australia before coming to England to complete my schooling. In 1960, I gained my parachute wings and served four years in the Special Forces TA, training to parachute at night behind enemy lines to carry out covert reconnaissance sending data back in encrypted Morse code. I gained a cadetship at the College of Air Training, in Hamble, and graduated as a Commercial Pilot in 1964. During my 33 year career with BEA and British Airways I flew the Vanguard, Trident, BAC 1-11 and variants of the B747, gaining my command in 1973.

In 1991 I joined based in Port Solent, and began learning to sail yachts rather than windsurfers. My sailing career began in earnest when, in 1994, I competed in the Sydney-Hobart and the Sydney-Mooloolaba races while undergoing chemotherapy for Lymphoma.

In 1996 I joined the crew of “Time and Tide” in the BT Global Challenge, sailing the Rio to Wellington, and Wellington to Sydney legs before acute Tenosynovitis of all my fingers and thumbs forced me to leave the boat in Sydney, and undergo intensive physiotherapy at the BA Medical Centre back in the UK. I undertook both these adventures while still a serving captain with BA.

After retirement in 1997, I completed my first of three Transatlantic crossings to gain the Ocean endorsement of my Yachtmaster power and sail, before qualifying as a Yachtmaster Instructor. I am a member of the Probus Club of Havant, Downhill Only Ski Club, RORC, Royal Southern Yacht Club, Army Sailing Association and Commodore of the Port Solent Yacht Club. I have sailed well over 55,000 miles and live in Port Solent where I keep my yacht “Up To Speed”, a Dehler 35.

In August 2017 I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma affecting both lung and liver, a deadly and previously untreatable form of cancer, for which I underwent a newly approved Immunotherapy treatment until June 2019 when Scans revealed that all signs of the lesions had gone. If, in two years from then, I am still cancer free, I will be declared CURED and IMMUNE from advanced Melanoma. I am a donor and fundraiser for the new Centre for Cancer Immunology at the University of Southampton, to help find the reason why the drug does not yet work for 60% of patients with this deadly disease.

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