Hobart Race or Bust

Sailing the Rolex Sydney Hobart with her father carries on a distance-racing family tradition

Katie Devore
Katie DeVore relaxes before the start of the 2017 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race on board the New York-based Xp 44 Warrior Won.Photo: H.I. Devore

Katie DeVore calls herself her dad’s “fake son.” As a kid, she delighted in trips to Home Depot with her father, H.L. DeVore, and the projects that followed those trips.

“We’ve always had a special connection,” she says. “I would go to the boatyard to work on the boat, and sail with my dad on our Shields or J/44.”

Ever since she was a youngster, DeVore admired her father for his participation in distance races, such as the Newport Bermuda, and made it her goal to eventually sail in one herself. In December 2016, the senior DeVore was watching a live broadcast of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race with his family and mused aloud about taking his own team to race on Christopher Sheehan’s Xp 44 Warrior Won. The younger DeVore seized the opportunity to plead for a chance to join the crew herself should they enter Australia’s great race.

DeVore got her wish months later during the 2017 Edlu ­Distance Race on Long Island Sound. With her father as navigator and Sheehan at the helm, DeVore took up the challenge with confidence and a willingness to learn, with her focus set on Hobart Race.

“Each race that I did, I also learned and grew,” she says. “Mr. Sheehan puts an emphasis on learning, so I was never afraid to make a mistake.”

DeVore is an accomplished sailor and a Division 1 track athlete at the University of Pennsylvania, so committing to and completing the race was a balancing act for the busy 20-year-old. She finished an exam and left for Sydney within 24 hours. Once she arrived Down Under, she went straight from baggage claim to ­Warrior Won for practice. Exhausted but full of adrenaline, she says, she took in the sights for the first time.

“I was immediately overcome,” says DeVore. “Being in Sydney Harbor and seeing the Opera House and the bridge, with LDV Comanche ripping across the harbor, it hit me how crazy it was to be doing the race just a short time after packing up my dorm room.”

Standout memories of the race include sailing past ­Tasmania’s iconic Organ Pipes, reaching a record speed of 22.3 knots, and the abundance of camaraderie on the dock post-race. What held the most weight, however, was hearing her father say he was living his dream.

“For me to be able to do the Sydney Hobart Race with my dad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” she says, “to be able to cross the finish line with him.”