A Nelson sailor is aiming to catapult his Wednesday-night hobby to the international stage as he competes for a place on a world record-breaking attempt to sail around Australia.
Nelson Environment Centre chief executive Grant Jones wants to win one of 12 places on the international crew of Brindabella, which is next year trying to break the world record for circumnavigating Australia in a crewed monohull boat.
The expedition is part of the Save Our Seas campaign, which raises awareness about the damage plastic bags are doing to coastal waters and oceans.
Dr Jones said it was a topic close to his heart. He'd seen plastic clogging up the mouths of turtles in the Seychelles and rubbish littering the shorelines of the Tasman region. "People don't realise that every plastic bag they use could end up in the ocean," he said.
NEC was also working with Brindabella's skipper and SOS founder Ian Thomson to establish Save Our Seas New Zealand.
He said SOS had already accepted his sailing resume; the next step was fundraising. The top five fundraisers were automatically shortlisted for the final 30, with the highest fundraiser guaranteed a spot on the final crew. The final 30 would attend crew trials in the Whitsundays in January, with a documentary made of the competition.
Selection would be based on sailing skills and the amount of money pledged. Funds raised would go to Ian Thomson's SOS campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of plastic.
"I would imagine a lot [of sailors] have applied," Dr Jones said. "There's potentially hundreds of keen sailors out there that would like to get on this."
Dr Jones said he loved sailing and got out whenever he could – usually in the Tasman Bay Cruising Club's Wednesday night race series, with local businessman Pete Rose on his beloved Ross 830 yacht Floozie.
"When you spend a lot of your time in the office it's great to get out and do something different," Dr Jones said. "Wednesday night out sailing with Pete just completely takes your mind off things."
Dr Jones' sailing resume also included the 2004 Round Britain and Ireland Race on a boat supporting Save the Children.
He said the chance to combine sailing with campaigning for environmental awareness attracted him to the SOS race.
"It was just such a great buzz, to be taking part in that sort of thing," he said. "I really love that team challenge. The fact that this record attempt is being made for a worthy environmental cause is a double whammy, really."
But it won't be a leisurely cruise.
"This is not just an environmental campaign, it's a serious racing challenge as well.
"[It's] going to be extremely hard on the crew. We'll be pushing hard 100 per cent of the time to get the most out of the boat and beat the current record [of 37 days]."
Mr Rose's Nelson-based software company Zac had started off the sponsorship with $200 towards the attempt.
"We wanted to help raise awareness of sustainable issues," Mr Rose said. "Grant is a really great guy, a great crewman and it's just a very good cause."
Dr Jones said sponsors would receive worldwide attention and coverage through Brindabella's interactive website, including live HD video streaming. SOS also has a boat racing in the Around North Island two-handed race in February.
Visit sosoceanracing.com or contact Dr Jones on 021456154 for more information.
- The Nelson Mail
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