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Young sailors set sights on Launceston to Hobart race honours

Four sailors under 18 years old are taking part in this year’s Launceston to Hobart yacht race, which departs Beauty Point on the 27th of December.

The juniors are sailing on Advantedge, Footloose, Invincible and The Doghouse, with the youngest sailor just 13 years old.

Derwent Sailing Squadron Commodore Scott Brain said a lot of sailors aspired to do longer races such as the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, so competing in the 285 nautical mile Launceston to Hobart was a real learning curve for them.

“It’s actually quite a challenging race to come out of Launceston through the notorious Banks Strait and head down the East Coast and then around Tasman Island,” Mr Brain said. “And as everyone tells you, a trip around Tasman Island is something that everyone should aspire to especially when you’re racing.”

For junior sailors, the race gives them an experience of competitive ocean sailing that Mr Brain says makes them better sailors down the track.

Sailors under 18 must make a special application to the Derwent Sailing Squadron outlining their sailing experience and be approved by race organisers, who make sure they’ve got parental consent and are sailing with a competent crew that has a plan to look after them.

Dustan Belbin is sailing on Footloose

Dustan Belbin, 15, a member of Lindisfarne Sailing Club in Hobart, is competing on Footloose, skippered by Stewart Geeves. Although Dustan has sailed in other races before on Footloose - including the Pipe Opener, Isle of Caves and Maria - this will be his first time competing in the Launceston to Hobart on the boat.

“I’m pretty anxious about the race because I’ve never done it before,” Dustan said, “but I’m excited to see what it holds for me and what I learn and encounter on the journey down.”

Footloose has previously won the Launceston to Hobart yacht race, as well as the Maria Island Race on different occasions - although this year’s Maria was an interesting outcome for the crew due to light winds.

“I think we set a world record for the longest Maria race in many a year,” laughed Mr Geeves. “We finished at quarter past four on Monday morning, so that was getting a bit long-winded and [Dustan] put up with that all that and he persisted and hung in there, he’s good value.”

Mr Brain said the Derwent Sailing Squadron was happy to give the tick of approval for Dustan to sail on Footloose for the Launceston to Hobart. “Stewart Geeves is a really great competitor and his crew does a tremendous job,” he said. “They never ever throw the race in, they always finish, and I would imagine Dustan would be champing at the bit waiting for the race to start.”

UPDATE: Here's how the race went for Dustan Belbin

Follow the boats

The Launceston to Hobart yacht race starts at 11.30am on Sunday 27th December from Beauty Point. You can follow the progress of individual boats on the Launceston to Hobart race tracker.