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Story Contributors: Billy Sykes


The Key To Winning The Sydney Hobart For North’s Billy Sykes Is Teamwork

The sailors and designers in the world of North Sails are some of the most inspiring people on the water, and we’re hoping to share more of their story with you. “Letter to my younger self” is a series told from our North Sails ambassadors. In each article we bring to life their advice and personal journeys centered around the question: if your “now-self” could give your “younger self” advice, what would it be?

Dear 20-Year-Old Billy,

After a couple of years off, we’re back in 2021 to race in the 76th Sydney to Hobart! And, boy, am I excited. Heading into this year’s race, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous (the good kind of nervous), so I wanted to share with you some advice on how to get from where you are now to where I am today.

First off, stand up for yourself, but also be flexible and honest. Attitude and preparation are everything to being successful. This will help you out in all areas of your life, but never more so than in the Sydney to Hobart. Preparation is key to that race. The boat and the team with the best equipment have the best shot at winning the Melbourne Cup of Offshore (yes, I realize I just compared horse racing to offshore sailing but as we all know, just because you’re the favourite doesn’t mean you’ll win the race!).

Over the years, things might get a little bumpy, but trust me when I say: Always stay open minded to other ways of skinning a cat. Just because you have an opinion on the best way to do things, when it comes to family, business, and sport- it’s all about teamwork! This will save you a lot of headaches if you abide by this advice. Be honest, trustworthy, and loyal. Always give 100% to the team.

Remember, to win this race, teamwork is key. Back everyone up and be prepared for the next sail change, watch change, or whatever change happens next!

Sydney to Hobart is a special race for a multitude of reasons but one that stands out is it’s all about challenging yourself. Sailing on the TP52, Gweilo, on the edge for two or three days… offshore… is challenging. But, wow, it’s fun.

Dad will continue to inspire you over the years. He’ll take ’21 off but we all know he’ll be back in 2022. He’s lost count on how many races, but we think he’s up to 30+ Sydney to Hobarts now! Hopefully, he has a few races left to go and I can’t wait to do one race with him.

Billy, you must believe in the big picture and never give up. Let your dad be your inspiration—he’s the most loyal, hardworking man you’ll ever meet. Enthusiasm, teamwork and a positive attitude will give you a ‘cutting edge’ in life. Never give up and keep pushing the boat; remember, you can always sail faster. Use your expertise from North Sails to guide sailors into using and developing their current sail configurations. Also don’t hesitate to recommend new sails to help keep evolving faster sails, and quicker modes sailing offshore.

One last thing, do not be surprised when you hit no wind off Tasman Island after being fire hosed for over 500 miles! And, as always, relish in the support and love from your family – Abbey makes all this possible.

Keep sailing and stay excited,



Story Contributors

Letter to My Younger Self: Billy Sykes headshot
Billy Sykes

Sail Expert — Sydney, Australia

Billy started with North Sails Australia in 2001 and completed his sail making apprenticeship then moving in to the design office to help coordinate design, before progressing to sales. Billy has extensive inshore one design and offshore racing experience both...

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