Overcoming kidney failure

At the SAP 505 Worlds Luke Molloy and Jim Turner discuss their careers

Thursday March 31st 2011, Author: Di Pearson, Location: Australia

Among the big names on Hamilton Island for this week’s 2011 SAP 505 World Championship are two America’s Cup and big boat sailing mates, here to sharpen their skills in the 505 - and one of them - an Australian has a remarkable story.

Queenslander Luke Molloy, an ambitious and highly-regarded sailor, told for the first time of his chronic kidney failure and a subsequent kidney transplant last March. A low-key bloke, Molloy, 31, hasn’t told many people. He wanted no sympathy, and even more, he didn’t want the affliction to stop him from sailing, or for others to stop him doing from the sport he loves best.

“It goes to show you that people can do anything they want. I had this problem for five years and didn’t know. The reality is, I probably had it when I was sailing the 2005-2006 Volvo Ocean Race aboard ABN AMRO Two,” said Molloy.

“I was starting to feel a bit tired and lethargic, but to tell you the truth, I thought it was because I was flying around the world and competing non-stop. Getting a new kidney changed me completely, I had so much more energy; I’m fitter. It’s amazing, the difference it’s made,” Molloy said.

Kidney transplants are a last minute resort. Molloy continued to sail while having dialysis daily for six weeks. “A family member gave me a kidney, I was very lucky,” Molloy said, preferring not to go into details of who donated the organ. “I had to keep sailing while I was on dialysis, because being a pro-sailor, if someone replaces you in a crew for any job, it’s likely you won’t get that job back.”

Sailing jobs included an unsuccessful transatlantic record attempt aboard British yachtsman Mike Slade’s ICAP Leopard, just six weeks after his transplant.

A driver and trimmer, Molloy was selected from 1800 sailors to be on board ABN AMRO Two. Molloy was 25 when he set off on that adventure, and that race put him on the map.  Recognised for his efforts, in 2007, Molloy became a member of the Swedish 32nd America's Cup challenger, Victory Challenge. This year he is competing on the Audi MedCup circuit with the Franco-German ALL4ONE team and is hoping the group will transition into challenging for the 34th America’s Cup.

Molloy, who grew up in Gladstone, has Mark ‘Squark’ Bradford to thank for his first yachting opportunity after gaining a sail making apprenticeship at his North loft in Brisbane. His first big offshore job came from a friend of both, Peter ‘Spike’ Doriean, who tragically died a year ago. “I got to go sailing because of working for Squark, and Spike launched me into the international scene,” said Molloy, who ditched university when he got hooked on big boat sailing.

Among his accomplishments, Molloy, who now lives in the UK after marrying Englishwoman Sally, won the 2009 Copa del Rey aboard Neville Crichton’s maxi yacht Alfa Romeo.

Speaking from Hamilton Island today, the pro-sailor said he last sailed a 505 at the 2002 Worlds. His friend and crew, Jim Turner, had never sailed one before, but have twice won the Fireball Worlds – 1996 and 1998. “Jim hatched the plan to sail these 505 Worlds while we were at the MedCup,” Molloy said.

“We rang Holger Jess in Germany (Jess is also a competitor at the SAP 505 Worlds) and asked him to put a package together. He’s great; you get a new boat, rigged, fully equipped and even tuned,” Turner said. “We’re very grateful to him.

“The first couple of days back on the boat really hurt,” admitted Turner, “my stomach and leg muscles especially!” The pain is worth it though, the two were placed sixth overall going into today’s racing, against a class field.

An Englishman from Dorset, Turner lives in New Zealand where he met his wife through the America’s Cup, where he also became friends with Molloy. Now 35, Turner, also a pro-sailor, was the pitman aboard GBR Challenge in 2002-2003 and the French challenger, Areva, in 2007.

“Competing at the 505 Worlds is good for us. We needed to get back to basics and learn how to do everything again,” Turner said. “A few things are passing us by, because on big boats we’ve got used to doing one or two things at a time, but on a dinghy like this, you have to do everything and be aware of everything.”

Molloy responded “We’re getting better though. We finished 15th at the pre-worlds and we’re 10th so far at the Worlds.”

Turner: “We’re getting our fast skills back and that’s a good thing. It’s about reminding yourself to make sure you’re always going as fast as you can. The gains and losses are huge in the 505. It’s the best decision we’ve made for ages.”

The two, who have resumes too extensive to go into, will next jump aboard ICAP Leopard with the gregarious Mike Slade again, to take on the Transatlantic Race, part of the Atlantic Ocean Racing Series, covering 2,975 miles from Newport, Rhode Island, to the Lizard in England.

“We’ll be up against Rambler 100, the former Speed Boat, now owned by George David,” Turner said. Other foes will include Puma's new VO70 mar mostro and Karl Kwok’s Farr 80 Beau Geste.

In the meantime, Molloy is heavily involved with all the technical details of the brand new TP52 ALL4ONE, which is being built in Australia by McConaghys and will be launched next month, when he will re-join the Audi Sailing Team. Turner will also return to the MedCup circuit, with the Russian Synergy team, which he has been sailing with for a while.

Both said they would “jump at the chance,” to sail on the new AC45 catamarans and are hoping their respective TP teams have ambitions to make it to the 34th America’s Cup. First though, they are looking to put in a first class performance at the SAP 505 World Championship.

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