It’s not every sport, in which a father and son can compete against one another for trophies and prizes. Yet in the Henry family, where saltwater runs in the veins, there’s every chance you will catch these gents out on the ocean, racing each other. A family, with a near spiritual connection to nature, the ocean was built for people like the Henrys. They love all the weird and wild things it chucks at them.
This winter, when the elder, David Henry sailed into the Broadwater with his co-skipper Stephen Prince aboard his Sydney 36 CR Philosopher, his mood was one of calm reflection. He sat, perfectly still, beneath a silver sail, his white spinnaker, gently blowing him to victory.
Just twenty minutes earlier, his son Rupert had sailed by, also with just one crew member, the formidable Greg O’Shea, and they crossed the line off Main Beach with gleeful repose.
So, it seems a steady fact, that whether these Henry blokes are circumnavigating the globe, flying moths, bumping into trees in the Solomon Sea or setting records, they love the pared back style of sailing double-handed. It is decidedly old school as David Henry says, and encapsulates a man against nature adversity that they crave when signing up for a new challenge.
Despite finishing first, Rupert knew that he’d conceded the win, to his septuagenarian father. “Well If I am going to lose to someone, then I couldn’t ask for more. It’s fantastic. It’s a bit of a blessing to be able to lose to your Dad!” he said, reflecting on the outcome.
“We had to beat them by about two hours, for the corrected time to balance out, so it wasn’t going to happen in the last 20 miles, or probably the last 50 miles. So, once we got past Cape Byron it was pretty straight sailing from there, and conditions that were suiting Philosopher that were not suiting us. We had no chance,” Rupert said.
As he looks around at his father over the lunch table, he is happy with the company he is keeping. “But that’s okay - they sailed really well,” Rupert said. When asked what makes his father so brilliant at this race, the younger, happily concedes the elder’s experience is a deciding factor. “Yeah, Dad has done the East Coast of Australia probably 30, 40 times, so he’s a good guy to follow,” said Rupert laughing, his voice full of restrained admiration.
As for his dad, David Henry, he was just happy to be doing his boat proud.
“In this race, this is the best we have ever done. And it’s a great boat, so I feel like at least, I am not embarrassing the boat at all.” Reflecting on the trip, David said he didn’t just win three new doorstops - being crowned for IRC Division 3, Corinthian IRC and Two-Handed IRC - he also got a kick out of the incredible sights on the way up.
“Smooth seas, whales galore and a beautiful full moon made this a memorable race for all,” said David the morning after. “The race was challenging, with varying conditions and very light winds. But it had so many opportunities to see nature at her best,” David said.
Of their strategy and routing, it is clear their judgements were also second to none. “We made some good decisions with weather routing and the boat performed well. It’s been a great start to our offshore program and as always, my thanks go to my mate, and fellow crew member Stephen Prince. He is very quiet, he is humble, but he is knowledgeable and as you know, a very good sailor. I am lucky to have him, and lucky that he tolerates me,” David Henry said.
When asked about his son, David Henry refuses to take any credit for his ability, attributing his gnarliest qualities to his mother Jill, who is also a formidable sailor.
“Rupert and I have done deliveries together and sailed two-handed together, he has sailed on my boat, more than I have sailed on Mistral.
“But he’s grown up on them. Since he was four, he’s been on boats. And from the moment he could stand up, he used to try and grab the tiller. He knew what going on and what made the boat go.”
It sounds like this skill will also flow to Rupert’s son Otto and history will, repeat itself.
Whichever way it goes we look forward to seeing the Henry’s back on the water for the rest of the Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore. We can tolerate more family duels, and eagerly anticipate hand-to-hand battles within this burgeoning section of the fleet.
Words by Belinda Aucott
Images by DH | CYCA
Videos by Steven Grevis