Kate Waterhouse with Geoff Huegill

Pumped ... Geoff Huegill can't wait for the Sydney to Hobart. Photo: Jacky Ghossein

Australian butterfly swimmer Geoff Huegill is one of Australia's greatest sportsmen. The former 50-metre butterfly world-record holder became a sporting hero when he made his comeback in 2008. His return to the pool added two Commonwealth Games gold medals and world championship silver and bronze medals to his trophy cabinet. With a Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race also under his belt, the former Olympic swim star will jump aboard the 100-foot supermaxi Ragamuffin Loyal for his second race south on December 26. Kate Waterhouse catches up with the 33-year-old before he sets sail.

Are you all prepared for the big race?

We are getting there. The reality is starting to kick in. It's going to be different this year because it's a different crew and different people, so the whole dynamics have changed a lot. But I think that is one of the exciting parts of it all.

Do the celebrities aboard Loyal get it easier?

Little bits are a bit easier but, in saying that, it means you have to work even harder purely for the fact that you don't want to play the celebrity string, you want to make sure you earn their respect and have credibility.

What is it like on board during the race?

Put it this way, there is nothing glamorous about ocean racing!

Do you get to sleep?

Last time it was 24 hours before I even got a sleep and it was just for three hours … by the time your second sleep comes along, you are just finding a place to sleep. Last time, I ended up falling asleep on wet sails because you are that exhausted and you want to find a place where you can curl up.

Do you like your chances of winning this year?

[Loyal] always has a good chance but one of the things I've learnt with sailing is there are so many other factors that can go wrong. A lot of it is not in your control, whereas when you're swimming, when you step up behind the blocks, then you take responsibility for your actions.

Is Wild Oats your biggest competition?

They will definitely be the boat to beat. Those guys are a well-oiled machine, they have got a great boat, they have amazing history behind them and they will be out for vengeance. They are going to want to make up for lost ground, so they will be going full steam ahead.

You raced in 2010, and will again in 2012, but you missed out last year, when Loyal won. Did you feel robbed?

I didn't feel robbed. One of the hardest parts was waving goodbye to all the guys on the dock last year. I would have definitely put my hand up to be on the boat [but] I had a purpose this year and that was for the Olympic trials.

Were you disappointed you didn't make it to the Olympics?

We missed out by half a second, which is good and bad in some ways. One of the things that really hampered me was that I got sick, so naturally I didn't have the best preparation and it showed on the day. If I was 10 years younger, it would be a different story - I'd be more heartbroken - but because I've been there and done it all before and experienced that sort of stuff, I can move on and not have regrets.

Your comeback was one of Australia's great sporting moments; what was it like to feel that support?

The support was something I really appreciated and [it] made the journey a hell of a lot easier, there is no doubt about that. It was an unreal period in my life.

Are you enjoying retirement?

I enjoy getting six hours of my day back, I enjoy spending more time with my family and those sorts of things [but] I do miss the competition aspect. One thing I make sure I still do every day is exercise, that is still really important to me.

Are you enjoying fatherhood?

Yes, I love it. It's unreal.

Your wife, Sara, must be very supportive.

Yes, it's good, we have a good little routine and a great thing going on. We will definitely be having more kids one day but we will wait and see how that goes.

What's next for you?

In the next four years - as an athlete I think in four-year cycles, Olympics to Olympics - I'll be finishing off my studies. I'm doing my MBA, so that's the most important thing. Also I want to get more experience in the corporate world - I'm lucky to have moved into corporate banking with the Commonwealth Bank - and just spending time with the family, being a normal person for a while will be good.

WE WENT TO Fratelli Paradiso.

WE ATE Berry muffins.

WE DRANK A skim cappuccino and a macchiato.

GEOFF WORE Dolce & Gabbana shirt, Dr Denim jeans and Fred Perry sneakers.