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Erin Molan survives failed Sydney to Hobart bid: 'I've never feared for my life like that'

After months of wry jokes regarding her survival chances in the Sydney to Hobart, Erin Molan says she will give the world-famous yacht race another crack after being forced to retire early.

After Perpetual Loyal's flying start in the 2015 race, the battered yacht and its star-studded crew were forced to withdraw for the second year in a row due to hull damage.

Erin Molan was forced to confront her childhood fear of waves in the Sydney to Hobart on Perpetual Loyal.
Erin Molan was forced to confront her childhood fear of waves in the Sydney to Hobart on Perpetual Loyal. Photo: Lisa Maree Williams

The supermaxi was regarded as one of the favourites for line honours this year before encountering a brutal storm, which caused a third of the boats to drop out of the race before reaching Hobart.

"We were the first out of the heads so that was amazing. It was what they call champagne sailing which lulls you into a false sense of security," the NRL Footy Show co-host said.

Molan joined a star-studded line up on Perpetual Loyal, including Anthony Minichello, Michael Clarke and Kurtley Beale.
Molan joined a star-studded line up on Perpetual Loyal, including Anthony Minichello, Michael Clarke and Kurtley Beale. Photo: Lisa Maree Williams

They'd heard about Wild Oats retiring and were coming second behind Rambler.

"We thought at that stage we've got a real shot of winning this, and then of course half an hour later we fell under the same fate."

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She described the moment when the southerly storm hit as almost surreal.

"I've seen movies where they have 'the calm before the storm' and it's exactly what it was like, literally everything stopped and then we just got pummelled, 40-knot winds, 10 to 15 metre swells.

Molan said going through the storm which forced Perpetual Loyal out of the Sydney to Hobart "was the scariest night of ...
Molan said going through the storm which forced Perpetual Loyal out of the Sydney to Hobart "was the scariest night of my life without any doubt". Photo: Rob Cox

"The guys ended up having to put me downstairs because it was too dangerous for me upstairs on deck, I was so light every wave that hit was just dragging me to hit the side of the boat."

But downstairs was even more frightening, Molan said.

"I was there by myself and all I could hear every couple of seconds was a big bang of the wave hitting up and the boat being thrown up and crashing down.

"We had damage to the hull, I was lying there and I could hear the bowmen running down to check it out and [one] was saying 'the hull is broken, there's water coming in' and I was frozen [with fear]. I've never feared for my life like that before."

At this point, she estimated the boat was around 40 miles from the Bass Strait which she'd had nightmares about for months.

Faced with the possibility of even fiercer conditions ahead, Perpetual Loyal's skipper Anthony Bell made the gut-wrenching decision to turn around.

But first, they had to sail back through the same storm which broke the boat.

"It was the worst way to go out, [it] was the scariest night of my life without any doubt," Molan said.

"I feel gutted now to be honest, just not having gotten there with all of the work we put in, it would have made it all worth it."

A small victory is the Nine Network sports presenter was wrested of her childhood phobia of the ocean during her time on the supermaxi.

"The unknown was the scariest part, even though what I was envisaging was not as bad as what actually happened. I have a lot more respect for the ocean now and a lot more respect for what those sailors do," she said.

It also helped that she wasn't the first sailor on the boat to lose their lunch - that honour went to former Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke.

"All of the crew had a bet going on which celebrity would be the first to hurl chunks and I was the shortest odds. After a while I was like 'hold it, hold it' then Michael lent over the back of the boat and I was like sweet, now it's my turn."

Despite Anthony Bell's plans to sell the 30-metre yacht after this year's race, Molan said she would do the race again "in a heartbeat".

"I want to do it again next year and I want to get to Hobart. Even if you can't win you want to get there, even if you're paddling towards the end."

American supermaxi Comanche took out this year's Sydney to Hobart, with Australian yacht Ragamuffin 100 charging into second place.