Sailing is more than money — racing is more than winning

Sailing is more than money - racing is more than winning

When you come across a finance guru at a sailing regatta like Audi Hamilton Island Race Week you could be forgiven for thinking he’d bought a boat, hired a crew and was aiming to bask in borrowed glory. In the case of Channel Nine’s Paul Clitheroe you’d be dead wrong.

Clitheroe was born in the inland NSW town of Griffith and started sailing as lad in Sabot dinghies, eventually graduating to Moths. Inevitably, he moved to Sydney for a university education, got married and had three kids.

As Clitheroe puts it: “Sailing is worse than golf.” So during this period sailing took very much a back seat, but when the kids had grown up, the Clitheroes decided to stir the sailing bug back to life.

Initially, they thought cruising would be their hobby, but the odd race in their new Beneteau First 40.7 changed that. This boat won a Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Race and Paul was completely hooked from then on. He decided the 40.7 wasn’t his ocean racer of choice and swapped it for a Sydney 47.

The Sydney 47 was a great boat, Paul Clitheroe reckons, but when the factory-prepared First 45 was offered to him he went for it. The new boat, christened Balance, had been factory-optimised for racing, with a carbon kit, including recurved spreaders, but Beneteau France was keen for the boat to be sold to an owner-steerer Down Under.

Paul’s early experience with the carbon rig is that it reduces hobby-horsing in choppy conditions, so it wasn’t much of an advantage in the unseasonally quiet Hamilton Island conditions.

Clitheroe steers his own boat and has an amateur-status crew. They like to win, but ‘fun’ is the overriding motive. These factors explain why there’s a waiting list to crew on Balance. Paul also uses the boat to help train budding young sailors in the fine art of ocean racing.

When asked why a finance guru would spend the best part of 850K on a racing sailboat, Paul Clitheroe laughs and is the first to admit it doesn’t look like a great investment, especially as it’s non-taxable expenditure. Although he doesn’t use his boat as a tax deduction, it’s a viable alternative for people who are happy to have hirers or visitors on board regularly.

“From a purely financial point of view, privately owning a boat is a stupid thing,” admits Paul Clitheroe. “But the trick is setting a budget based on boat-racing experience.

“The starting point is buying a boat that’s around half the length you reckon you can afford — that way you can afford to equip it and maintain it so it’s competitive,” he explained.

And as we go to press, the Balance boys certainly looked competitive, sitting in second place in their division. Watch this space.

Photo: Clitheroe’s racing Beneteau First 45 Balance.