Flagstaff Marine Sail News and Stories

Double Line Honours - Matt Doyle and Paul Cozzi

Fresh from snatching line honours at both Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach Race Weeks, skippers Matt Doyle and Paul Cozzi are loving the sailing life. In just four and half years these great mates have gone from zero sailing experience to a podium finish with their Sense 50, La Troisieme Mi-temps. We caught up with Matt Doyle to hear more about his new found love of sailing.

Up for the challenge

Up for the challenge

Matt and Paul both love a challenge; it’s a bond that underpins their longstanding friendship. Together they have done the Kokoda Track with their sons, they ski regularly and Paul has even climbed Everest Base Camp. As Matt says, “We look at this way – what is there in life to do, apart from work and make money and feed our kids?”

So when the pair decided their next challenge would be sailing, they didn’t take any half measures.

“We jumped straight in with a 50-foot luxury boat,” says Matt. “Just straight in – we do that in life. And the Sense 50 worked for us because the cockpit area is good for entertaining. As it turned out, the boat is not too bad for racing.”

Racing

Racing

In their inevitable style, the pair had only owned the new yacht for about a year when they decided to try their hand at racing.

“We started our journey in race sailing about three years ago,” says Matt, “We only do Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach race weeks and we don’t do any local racing apart from Beneteau Cups in Sydney… We’ve put on brand new North sails two or three years ago – race sails. So, we have a set of those. They’ve worked pretty well for us.

But we may look at putting the boat in for some more local stuff mid-week, from our current success, because now people want to be on the crew, on board. People understand us now.”

Photo: Sharon Smallwood

Hammo 2018

Hammo 2018

At this year’s Hamilton Island Race Week, La Troisieme Mi-temps competed in Division 1 Non-spinnaker with Matt and Paul sharing skipper duties. “We got two seconds during the series and we won the series at the end,” says Matt.

While Matt and Paul absolutely loved the win, it’s the atmosphere of Hammo that keeps them coming back.

“Hamilton Island has a buzz,” says Matt,

“240 boats is pretty impressive. It’s pretty scenic in that sense – you see all those boats hard at work, especially the big guys. We have the four to six hours out on the water, then we would normally have a celebration drink on the boat afterwards. Then we would get ourselves organised to go out for dinner, or have an in-house barbecue of all the crews so we could all hang out together that way.”

Airlie Beach

Airlie Beach

Matt skippered solo for Airlie Beach Race Week, winning overall in the non-spinnaker division. Like many other sailors, Matt loves Airlie beach for its quintessential Australian flavour. “It’s down to earth, traditional Aussie sailing against the locals.”

The running competition with other crews is another element of Airlie that Matt relishes.

“There’s a boat we compete against every year, QMS, who we hold in high regard. They’re a strong competitor and finally they’re getting some respect for us now,” he laughs.

And then there’s the ongoing rivalry between Matt and fellow Beneteau owner Ivor Burgess.

“Ivor’s a good friend and he’s a fellow Royal Prince Alfred member, so we had daily competitions with a bottle of wine at stake every day of the races. They had about 12 people on board, all excellent sailors of yesteryear. And they thought they’d take the young bucks on and it was a lot of fun. We partied every second night with Ivor and we were fortunate enough to win five out of the six races at Airlie, so we got nearly half a dozen bottles of red wine out of it!”

Secret to success

Secret to success

So how exactly did two novice sailors find themselves holding the silverware? The answer is simple – Matt and Paul are wise enough to recognise their own shortcomings and surround themselves with experienced sailors.

“You have to surround yourself and you’ve got to build relationships with people who want to come and enjoy the journey with you,” says Matt. “People like Shane and Warren – we’ve built relationships there with those guys and they keep coming back. They’re equal members of the team.”

Flagstaff’s Shane Crookshanks and Warren Taylor are the two tacticians who coach Matt and Paul during Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach race weeks respectively.

“Shane’s been a good mentor in all things Beneteau and he’s assisted us greatly getting the boat ready for Hamilton Island in particular. He’s got a lot of knowledge. Everyone knows he’s competitive – and he’s a good guy. So, he’s been with us for the journey for three years and we’re going back again, the whole team, doing a repeat.

For Airlie Beach we have Warren or The Guru. He just understands boats and weather and I call him ‘The Wind Whisperer’ as well.”

Striking a balance

Striking a balance

Perhaps one of the secrets to Matt and Paul coming successfully to sailing later is their shared goals.

“We wanted to have the whole experience, one to learn, two to be competitive and three to be safe. And to own and just use the boat for all facilities – for the fun of racing, the challenge of racing, plus just social and cruising locally. It’s an activity where we can take new friends and old friends out on the boat.”

And this outlook is exactly how the skippers approach racing.

“We want balance,” says Matt, “So, I build a boat in the sense of roughly half the people are very capable, good sailors, clever, capable sailors. And the other half is social, who are capable clever people as well, but maybe no sailing experience.”

Living up to her name

Living up to her name

Like her skippers, La Troisieme Mi-temps, is all about putting in the hard yards and enjoying the rewards. The name, chosen by Australian rugby legend, Nick Farr-Jones, literally translates to ‘the third half’ and refers to the after-game party.

“A mate of mine, Nick Farr-Jones, spent four years in France playing rugby and he assisted in coming up with the name. We thought, as it’s a Beneteau French boat, it was in blue, there was a bit of a connection there and it made sense – the party after the game.”

Choosing Beneteau

Choosing Beneteau

After thinking about buying a boat for many years, the friends chose Beneteau – a brand they felt was well respected and represented quality at an excellent price.

“I always saw the Beneteau brand as maybe the BMW or Mercedes equivalent production line boat, but still a quality boat,” says Matt. “It had a brand associated with it, so that was the first thing that attracted me. And I think just the look of Beneteaus and the finish and the price point.”

What’s Next

Now that their children are older, Matt and Paul are hoping to have more time to do some local racing, possibly the upcoming Beneteau Cup. They are also quietly thinking about taking on a spinnaker in the next few years.

“It’s so much fun up there,” says Matt. “We know our way around now, we’re pretty at peace with it. It’s great catching up with people year after year – you get to know them.”

Without a doubt they will be back for Hamilton and Airlie in 2019 with their trusted crew members.

“Very few people want to drop off – so it’s very hard to add new people on, because I’ve got this loyalty of keeping my original guys who know what they’re doing.”