When it comes to offshore racing, 2017 was a breakthrough year for the GYCA Youth Sailing Academy's India Howard. With the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht under her belt, India is setting her sights on new challenges to build on her strong foundation of skills.
After starting her bluewater career in July last year on Les Goodridge's X50 Wax Lyrical in the Land Rover Sydney Gold Coast race, the sailing-focused 20-year-old India Howard took eveiy opportunity to maximise her experience in the run up to the Rolex Sydney Hobart in December.
"I did a couple of races on Wax Lyrical in the winter series, and they invited me to do the Land Rover Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race with them," India enthused. "After that I did every I offshore race except the Cabbage Tree Island Race."
Her sailing skills started in school, but have been honed with three years as part of the Youth Sailing Academy's (YSA) advanced squad.
I devote a lot of time to sailing. It's definitely my thing. I find it a really good way to relax and a great skill to learn. It was really special to be one of the current YSA sailors getting into offshore racing," she says.
India's learning for 2017 culminated in taking her skill set to the Southern Ocean, competing in her first Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race: "It was really cool. It was windy, but I wasn't too stressed because it was expected to be largely downwind; that settled my nerves.
"I'd never done a race that long before. Of course, it's not for everyone, but so much of it is about your mindset. When you get out there, there's no-one around you. You can turn your phone off and just concentrate on sailing.
"Experiencing nature was a big part of it for me too. On the ride down we saw whales, dolphins and sunfish, which was incredible."
It's not every day you meet someone who's done the Rolex Sydney Hobart, and India says, "That's really special to me. I'm the first one in my family to do it, and my parents have been really supportive. Much of my family is based in Hobart, so I had a really great welcome from aunts, uncles and cousins on the dock. It was the perfect way to finish the race."
With three more years with the YSA, India has set her sights on building her skill set even more: "I do bow in offshore, and I'm trying to get on to the bow in the YSA. I currently trim main and got to do that on the big boat. I also spent a lot of time trimming the kite.
"Taking my skills from offshore to the YSA and vice versa is a big goal forme. I'm already looking ahead to this year's Blue Water Pointscore Series and of course, the Rolex Sydney Hobart later this year. "
After such a quick three days in 2017, she's hoping it lasts a bit longer in 2018: "I found that once we got into the swing of things, and got the watches going, it went really quickly. You just want it to continue!"
We'll be watching. cyca.com.au/youth
Caption: SETTING COURSE It's onwards and upwards for passionate young sailor India Howard after her first Rolex Sydney Hobart finish.