WHEN Rod Jones takes to Sydney Harbour for the Sydney to Hobart on Boxing Day, he and his crew will carry the hopes of the Sunshine Coast.
The Buderim-based skipper is set to compete in his second edition of the iconic race, 34 years since his maiden voyage.
His boat and crew will boast a distinctly local flavour.
The 50-foot (15.2m) Audi Sunshine Coast is based at Mooloolaba Yacht Club and many of the 13-person crew hails from the Coast.
Jones is from Buderim, as is boat manager and pit man Greg McAllansmith.
Bowman Kai Timm is from Noosa and Lucas Down, the relief helmsman, is a Buderim product. So is tactician Shannon O'Rourke.
"The core of the crew has been with me for quite a long time and whilst it has evolved into having some people from Sydney and Brisbane, because you need to get specific people, we are still unashamedly a Sunshine Coast-based crew.
"I'm very conscious of the fact."
When asked if they felt like they represented the region Jones said "Yes, that's how we see it."
He's intent on winning a division of the 630 nautical miles (1170km) race.
"The first thing is we've got to finish the race. It has a high attrition rate so we want to finish and not break the people or the boat.
"We are really well prepared. It's a strong boat, our team is very fit and our goal is to win our division."
WHILE it's not yet known which division Audi Sunshine Coast will be in, it's anticipated she will be in division two, where its main rivals would most likely be Midnight Rambler, Patrice and Celestial.
Audi Sunshine Coast won division one of this year's Sydney to Gold Coast.
The Welbourn 50 boat designed in 2000, now boasts a keel, rudder and deck from the 1989 50-footer Heaven Can Wait, which performed well in the 2005 Sydney to Hobart.
"We've got an all-round boat so we can cope with almost any conditions," Jones said before predicting they would take about two-and-a-half days to reach
Hobart in the predicted downwind.
In those conditions, he forecast a record by the super maxis.
Jones said he was "nervously anticipating" the race. It's been a long time since I last did it."
Jones was on his father's boat, the 39-footer Mark Twain, in 1979.
The 53-year-old has competed largely in one design races (for sim
ilar boats) but in 2007 the team won the Australian IRC Championship that year and in 2009 with Alegria.
He is ready to tackle the
nation's top race again.
"I think this is just the evolution of the program" he said. "Once we get this one out of the way I'll go back to one design."
- STEELE TAYLOR
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