The Owner/Skipper of Patriot gives the inside scoop on his team's aspirations
Jason Close’s J133 Patriot, representing Sandringham Yacht Club, is a relative new-comer to the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race having competed just once before in 2010. That’s not to say she’s new to ocean-racing though, with two 1,064-nautical-mile Sydney Noumea Yacht Race epics also to her name.
Having purchased her 18 months ago, Close has assembled a crew of mates and campaigned her successfully at her home Club in Victoria. While all have strong experience ocean racing, Close’s crew is made up of well-versed Rolex Sydney Hobart sailors and fresh-faces alike, with Close himself racing to the Apple Isle for the very first time.
We caught up with the owner/Skipper for his aspirations taking Patriot into this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
Q: Let’s start with the big one, what’s your aim in the 2018 Rolex Sydney Hobart?
CLOSE: Our aim is pretty simple: make it to Hobart safely, have fun and get a good result in our division (IRC 3, ORCi 4). I’ve been sailing for 43 years but this will be my first Hobart and I’ve always watched the Race and wanted to be part of it. The dream is to win.
Q: So how are you feeling entering the race?
CLOSE: We’ve got a lot of Sydney Hobart first-timers but we’re confident in our ability – we wanted to fill the holes in the crew with the right people who gel with the team, not necessarily professional racers.
The Rolex Sydney Hobart is a big, big shift from the ocean racing I’ve done, it’s like going from the country races to the Melbourne Cup! We’ve put new sails on the boat and optimised where we can, and there’s been thought put into everything we’ve done.
We’re pretty relaxed now, the preparation was very solid, and I just can’t wait for the start, it will almost be a relief!
Q: Who’s the biggest threat – if not you, who’ll take the Tattersall Cup?
CLOSE: I think Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban for sure, they’re sailing really consistently, but of the smaller yachts I think Carl Crafoord’s Sail Exchange looks good.
The ones to watch for us will be American entrant John Murkowski’s similarly-matched J122e Joy Ride – they look immaculately setup and have been getting great results back home.
Q: How did you get into sailing?
CLOSE: I started in dinghies as a seven-year-old at Chelsea Yacht Club, Victoria. I went through various classes from Flying Ants to International 14’s – a class that I still love and sail.
Q: Tell us about your favourite sailing memory.
CLOSE: Sailing in the International 14 Worlds in San Francisco during the late 80s in a 150-boat fleet is right up there. There was plenty of wind, plenty of ships and plenty of partying after racing.
It blew like hell, we were tipping over in the middle of commercial shipping lanes, it was the toughest sailing I’ve ever done by a mile but there was such a great atmosphere. Crocodile Dundee was famous and Australians were a big hit!
Q: You’ve mentioned your team, and now you’ve mentioned the partying – tell us about your team’s ethos.
CLOSE: We are here because we love the sport, we are all mates, no rock stars! We just want to race with good people and we handpicked the team from a group of SYC Clubmates. A team of champions doesn’t necessarily make a champion team, but no matter the result I’m proud to say we have the latter.
Q: Apart from your on-board crew, who else are you racing for?
CLOSE: Definitely for my long-suffering sailing widow wife who has supported my sailing addiction for many years. My sailing has taken a bit of a toll on the family, missing a few of the kids sporting accomplishments, but nothing more than other tragic yachties may have endured. This race is definitely for them.
Q: What’s the best thing about the Rolex Sydney Hobart?
CLOSE: The challenge! The race is one of the toughest yacht races in the world and how can I forget the intense Sydney start and the after-party in Hobart.
The depth of quality of this fleet is awesome, it really does say it all. Not many, if any are out there just going for a sail, and all are a chance for the Tattersall Cup.
Q: In 2019 the Rolex Sydney Hobart celebrates its 75th race – will you be entering?
CLOSE: I’m planning on doing the Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race and get into a bit of a mode with the crew. After that I’d like to sneak back up to Sydney and do some of the Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore races.
But the 75th Rolex Sydney Hobart is another dream, however one I will have to discuss further with the good lady wife. I haven’t asked her yet but I’m quietly confident!
Make sure to use and follow #RolexSydneyHobart to keep up with Patriot and all competitors during this year’s Great Race. Yacht Tracker technology will also once again be used to follow the race in real-time, with the Standings page providing projected outcomes race-long. Stay locked right here for all the latest news and information, and visit the Yachts page to see all entrants making up what is touted as the toughest fleet in Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race history.
Interviewed by DJ MUNRO