Francis charts steady course across Pacific
Jono Francis’ mother might not be happy about his upcoming South Pacific crossing, but the young man is chomping at the bit to get aboard Steinlager 2.
The Whitby 18-year-old has been sailing for much of his life, learning his craft in the optimist and starling classes at Paremata and Plimmerton boating clubs.
Lately he has been crewing on the larger keelboats out of the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club.
‘‘I tried cricket and rugby when I was younger, but I was pretty useless,’’ he said.
‘‘I saw a newspaper advert to have a go at sailing when I was about 8 and have been doing it ever since.’’
This Saturday, Francis will be one of the youngest crew members on Steinlager 2 for a 1200-nautical mile race from Auckland to Fiji.
Steinlater 2, nicknamed Big Red, was Peter Blake’s boat when he won every leg of the 1989-90 Whitbread round-theworld race.
The skipper of the famous maxi yacht – refitted at a cost of $850,000 – will be Blake’s son-in-law, Alistair Moore.
Francis applied to be a crewman through the New Zealand Sailing Trust and was delighted to be accepted. For someone who hopes to be a professional yachstman, the experience will be invaluable.
‘‘It’s the ultimate for someone like me and I’m grateful for the opportunity.
‘‘ Offshore racing is quite new to me and that environment [up to 7-metre swells] can be tough, but I can’t wait.
‘‘Mum’s a bit nervous about it, but I’m on an 82-foot (24 metres) maxi punching through the water. We’ll be OK.’’
Francis said his role will be as a bowman on Steinlager 2. He anticipated the race would take about six days. Boats will be handicapped, but he hoped they would be near the front.
Waterborne: Jono Francis in action in his Laser at the Plimmerton Regatta this year.