World Cup-winning Wallaby Finegan mentoring Sydney to Hobart crew

by AAP

The crew aboard Sydney to Hobart handicap contender Patrice are benefiting from having Rugby World Cup-winning Wallaby Owen Finegan as a mentor.

But Finegan's race debut will have to wait for at least one more year.

Tony Kirby's 46-foot boat finished third overall last year behind winner Ichi Ban and Balance, which took handicap honours in 2016.

Patrice could well feature among the leading overall contenders again after enjoying another successful year.

Kirby is a supporter of the Kids' Cancer Projector of which former back-rower Finegan is the chief executive.

Finegan played 55 times for the Wallabies between 1996 and 2003, scoring a famous solo try in Australia's 1999 World Cup final win over France.

He has supplied some words of wisdom as someone who has enjoyed success in a team sport.

"Owen is sort of our mentor, all of that coaching and team experience he's had over the years," said Patrice navigator Michael Bellingham, who is doing the race for a 27th time.

"It's often just a small word here or there or just that sense of encouragement, or just keeping the team united.

"Sometimes it's just settling down unrest within a team, and he just does that really well. There's no doubt about that."

Finegan has sailed on the boat and there was talk of him doing the Hobart race this year, though that won't happen before 2019, the 75th edition of the annual event.

"The sailing he did with us was an eye-opener for him because he just thought we all go sailing and enjoy ourselves, like many boats do have a nice trip to Hobart," Kirby said.

"But in the top level that we race at it's just like the top level in any sport, it's very demanding.

"We tried to work him on board, but we've got to teach him how to sail a bit more.

'We all agreed that give it another year and learn a bit more sailing and do some more time on the boat rather than rush into it."

He wouldn't be the first Wallaby to take the journey in the annual race - Phil Waugh has been part of a winning crew and a handful of races with Perpetual Loyal, while Kurtley Beale also took part in the race on Perpetual Loyal in 2015.

Beale and co were forced out of the race before the finish line on that occasion but will be among the contenders this year.