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20 years on: John Stanley, Sydney to Hobart survivor

Twenty years on from one of Australia’s most tragic sporting incidents, one of its survivors joined Macquarie Sports Radio to to tell his story.

The 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race proved deadly as six sailors lost their lives as a result of the deadly conditions. John “Steamer” Stanley was on board Winston Churchill and was rescued after 28 hours, and he told of the distressing events on the Morning show with David Morrow and Tony Leonard.

“It was certainly a place we didn’t need to be, and we think about all the boys that are no longer with us. I’ll have a beer with all of them on Boxing Day as well”, John said.

As 92 knot winds created treacherous conditions for the sailors, only 44 of the 115 starters made it to Hobart. Thirty metre waves destroyed five boats as seven more were left to be abandoned in the waters.

John said the troubling conditions shocked many of the crews early in the race and create havoc for all racing.

“If you weren’t out of there by 9am in the morning, it was too late. You’d have sailed into a cyclone. It was just horrendous”

“Sometimes it takes a tragedy to lift a sport, so that’s the troubling thing.”

After waiting for over 28 hours in the water, John said that he never lost hope and knew that he would always get rescued and be alright in the end.

“The rescue and navy staff that got us were remarkable. What they did were amazing. They pulled off some really heroic stuff.”

“I’ve always been a fighter and I’ve sailed my whole life. I grew up learning a lot of survival skills, but I always had faith that we would be picked up. I told my mate John, we just have to hold on.”

“I don’t think we’ll ever see this happen again, and I hope this never happens again. My thoughts and luck is with everyone sailing this year.

The 2018 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will kick off this year on Boxing Day from 1pm with updates on Macquarie Sports Radio.

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