18 January 2017
For USC student and yachtsman David Turton, science and the sea go hand in hand.
The Environmental Science (Honours) student from Buddina recently completed his eighth Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, acting as navigator on board the 66-foot mini-maxi yacht Alive.
Setting out on Boxing Day, David helped guide the 15-person crew to eighth place in what proved to be the fastest Sydney to Hobart race ever.
The high-pressure navigator role required David to provide analysis of weather conditions and the positioning of other boats, as well as manage Alive’s electronic systems.
The 47-year-old father of two said the advanced knowledge on weather and climate he had gained throughout his USC degree had sharpened his skills as a navigator.
“A navigator’s job is to make sure that you’re positioning the boat in a way that will give you the maximum advantage against your competitors,” he said. "It’s a real game of emotional fortitude.
“I’ve learnt a lot about how the ocean-beach interface works in my studies, and that certainly came into play when I was working out our race strategy.”
Having worked in the financial services industry for several decades, David decided to enrol in Environmental Science three years ago after completing USC’s Tertiary Preparation Pathway (TPP) course.
The first-time student said his lifelong passion for coastal and marine environments had spurred him to leave the finance world and take up study in a new field.
“When you’re out on the ocean, you gain an appreciation for just how much life is in there,” he said. “I eventually decided to enrol in Environmental Science because I wanted to delve deeper into what I’ve been fascinated by since I was a kid.
“I’d never studied at university before, but TPP set me up really well for my degree. Having a mentor in my first year was also really valuable.
“More than ever, I’ve become really conscious of the damage that humans can do to our marine environments, and I’d like to play a part in protecting them.”
David is now preparing to undertake an Honours research project on reef fish distribution in the Great Sandy Marine Park around Fraser Island.
His next navigator role aboard Alive will be in February for the Bruny Island Race in Tasmania, ahead of the Australian Yachting Championships in March.
— Gen Kennedy