SPORT — Pint-sized but battle-ready

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Smallest entry sizes up Rolex Sydney Hobart Race opposition

SPORT — Pint-sized but battle-ready
Jonathan Stone

Dinghy sailor Jonathan Stone is not only setting sail on his first Rolex Sydney Hobart Race aged 68 years, but he’s doing it at the helm of the smallest yacht in the fleet.

Stone and his crew of six will be taking on the famous 628nm racetrack in a pint-sized 34ft Davidson called Illusion.

But if you ask Stone, size doesn’t matter. While the supermaxis are the headline favorites, the smaller boat is where the true adventure is, he says.

"The boat’s won (the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race) before, it was the overall winner in 1988," said Stone. "We need to be well prepared and we need to stay in the race, then we need our prayers answered and we might just be figuring in the finish."

At close to one-third of the size of four-time Rolex Sydney Hobart line honours winner and favourite for a fifth, Wild Oats XI, Illusion is set to take more than four days to finish.

This means the Illusion crew will face physical and mental challenges unlike those encountered by their super-fast supermaxi counterparts.

"I think our boats may be less fragile because they’re smaller and tougher,’’ Stone reckons.

"But on the other hand, we’re more fragile than the tremendous sailors on those boats.

"We have to last twice as long, which will be a real challenge, to make sure that when the testing times come off the east coast (of Tasmania) and in Storm Bay that we’re in the (right) state of mind," he said.

Stone is confident his good ship is battle ready, and equipped to take on the forecast 40-knot winds and steep swell in Bass Strait.

After all, the yacht has conquered the famous race four times already, the last time in 2006.

"I can’t quite say I’m looking forward to Bass Strait in 30kts, but it’s there. It’s the adventure and challenge we took on when we went for this,’’ Stone said.

Stone and his boat partner Mathew Vadas bought the New Zealand designed Melbourne-built yacht in June this year.

After racing several passage races Stone said the crew has been working together to make sure everything was in check for the Holy Grail of Australian sailing.

"She’s a work in progress,’’ said Stone.

"She’s sailing in that old spirit of this race, of adventure, of people who are good sailors, accomplished sailors, who are taking on a real challenge.

"There isn’t much bigger than the Rolex Sydney Hobart," he adds.

And like so many smaller contenders Stone admits that just crossing the finishing line at Castray Esplanade in Hobart will be reward enough.

"People ask me where I want to finish and I say, in Hobart,’’ Stone laughs. "Finishing will be a big thing for us, but we’re in this game because we’ve been competitive sailors all our lives."

— Danielle McKay / Rolex Sydney Hobart media team
Photo: Jonathon Stone, owner of Illusion (© ROLEX/Daniel Forster)


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