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Life jacket from BERRIMILLA II

Date: 1998-2005
Overall: 310 x 470 x 170 mm
Medium: PVC, foam
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Alex Whitworth Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Object Name: Life jacket
Object No: 00042465

User Terms

    This life jacket was one of six taken on board the Brolga 33 yacht, BERRIMILLA II, by sailors Alex Whitworth and Peter Crozier during the 1998 Sydney-Hobart yacht race. According to Alex, they were 'bulky and impossible to work in on deck so we never used them.' They were later banned by the race organisers on the recommendation of the New South Wales Coroner, as rescue helicopter crews could not get the helicopter winch lifting strop over them during the rescue operations. In total, six men died, five yachts sank and 55 sailors were rescued.
    SignificanceThis item relates to the conditions faced by sailors Alex Whitworth and Peter Crozier on board the Brolga 33 yacht, BERRIMILLA II, during the most disastrous Sydney-Hobart yacht race in history.
    HistoryAlex Whitworth and Peter Crozier sailed BERRIMILLA II in the ill-fated 1998 Sydney-Hobart yacht race when a storm struck the fleet with 80-knot winds and mountainous seas. Five yachts sank and six men died in the most disastrous Sydney-Hobart race in history. The resulting emergency air/sea operation rescued 55 sailors and 71 of the 115 yachts failed to finish. BERRIMILLA II took first place on Handicap in the PHS Division.

    In 2005, after completing the 2004 Sydney-Hobart race, Alex and Peter kept sailing in their first attempt to circumnavigate the globe. After an unscheduled stop in Dunedin, New Zealand, they sailed to Cape Horn and Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Alex and Peter were about halfway between New Zealand and Cape Horn when they first communicated with the International Space Station (ISS) and one of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) most experienced astronauts, Dr Leroy Chiao. In a 2011 interview with ANMM curator Penny Cuthbert, Alex explained: ‘There’s a point in the Southern Ocean where, if you’re in a boat, you’re probably as far away as it’s possible to be from any other human being on the planet.’

    Alex realised that as the ISS orbited several times a day ‘somewhere overhead’, its crew would be ‘the nearest human beings’ to BERRIMILLA II. As Alex put it, ‘spacemen and sailors’ made contact via satellite phone and found various parallels in their respective journeys. There was a ‘shared isolation’ and the reality that as a crew, you ‘have to survive together’. The pair continued to Falmouth, UK where they met Leroy Chiao and then competed in the 2005 Fastnet race, finishing in 11th place. They sailed on home to Australia via the Cape of Good Hope, completing their voyage in time to start the next Sydney-Hobart race.

    In 2006, Chiao became a Professor at Louisiana State University and invited Alex and Peter to a Risk and Exploration Symposium. After the symposium, Alex and Peter spoke with Dr Pascal Lee, who invited them to rendezvous with his Haughton-Mars Project team for the total eclipse on 1 August 2008. He drew a map in Alex’s notebook which became the inspiration for the second circumnavigation, which was undertaken two years later and via the Northwest Passage.

    According to Alex's website, 'BERRIMILLA II became the first, and so far the only boat in history to:

    - Sail consecutive Sydney – Hobart races with a Fastnet race in between, all under sail – and she finished 11th overall in that Fastnet and 2nd in the Double Handed division

    - Circumnavigate the world via both Cape Horn and the Northwest Passage

    - Sail from Australia to England via the Northwest Passage

    - Complete a circumnavigation Fastnet Rock to Fastnet Rock also via the Northwest Passage.'


    'Alex Whitworth', from website 'Berrimilla: A Tiny Boat and the International Space Station', Accessed 29/07/13.

    Nicole Cama, 'Sailing, Spacemen and underpants', ANMM blog, 29/07/13 Accessed 30/07/13.
    Additional Titles

    Collection title: Yachting clothing and equipment from voyages of BERRIMILLA 2

    Assigned title: Life jacket from BERRIMILLA II

    Web title: Life jacket from BERRIMILLA II

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