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Beyond the law: Setting sail

Every Issue

Cite as: December 2013 87 (12) LIJ, p.102

When family lawyer Rebecca Badenoch pulls on her wet weathers the last thing on her mind is property division and dispute resolution. 

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Setting out for two weeks on a yacht the size of some office building lifts with nothing between her and Antarctica and limited food stocks on board, is not something every lawyer would call fun. But for Rebecca Badenoch, partner in charge of family law at Logie-Smith Lanyon, it’s exactly this potentially life threatening, adrenaline-pumping environment that she lives for.

“You develop special relationships with people being out there in a confined space on the waters of Bass Strait, and you have to trust one another with your lives,” she said.

There are plenty of times Ms Badenoch has found herself in dangerous conditions: high winds, rough seas, broken gear and sails. “You try and anticipate these things as much as possible and work to avoid them, but if they happen, you have to keep a cool and sensible head and put the safety of the crew and boat first.”

It’s this absolute physical and psychological challenge, not to mention the fierce competition and camaraderie of sailing, which provides the family lawyer with some welcome relief from the highly emotional nature of her practice.

“Sailing gives me balance and escape. The challenges and rewards of sailing are completely different to those I face at work,” she said.

In the eight years since Ms Badenoch first took up the sport in New Zealand, her trophy cabinet has become crowded. Following in the footsteps of her grandfather Harry Badenoch, who twice won the Sydney to Hobart yacht race in the 1940s, Ms Badenoch has been a member of the crews that won the 2012 Melbourne to Hobart yacht race on Matrix, placed third in the coveted Melbourne to Vanuatu where she was the only female on board during a gruelling two-week adventure, and won the Australian Women’s Keelboat Regatta – a race she now sponsors in the name of her law firm – on an Adams 10 called Top Gun.

Sailing her 32 foot Van der Stat Black Soo boat most weekends to keep physically and technically fit with the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron and the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria, is only part of the preparation needed before a major race like this year’s Melbourne to Hobart on 27 December. A huge amount of planning and mental preparation is also required including emergency and safety checks, obtaining the proper handicap inspections and certificates, making sure everyone has radio, sea safety and survival, and first aid certificates. “We spend a lot of time talking about navigation and weather, crew management and watches during the race, who will be responsible for what tasks and provisioning the food and drinks,” she explained. The race starts from Portsea, following the Melbourne to Blairgowrie, making for a packed and tense start-line, which Ms Badenoch said helps blow out any post-Christmas cobwebs. “By the time we are through the Heads the adrenaline is well and truly pumping.”

Harriet Edmund

Three tough races

New Zealand Ocean Race – Simrad two-handed series

> 30, 60 and 90 miles

“I was the only female and on one occasion we started the race in over 40 knots of breeze making it the most exhausting race I’ve done.”

Melbourne to Hobart (Westcoaster)

> 440 nautical miles

“The most challenging of the Hobart races because there’s nothing between us and Antarctica, and nowhere to stop if you get into trouble.”

Melbourne to Vanuatu

> 1885 nautical miles

“Two continuous weeks at sea, during which we saw very few animals, barely any land, had only radio contact with other boats, and had to attend to every living need, including sail and plumbing repairs and baking bread!”

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