John Bankart
John Bankart Warren Lynam

Bankart rediscovers joy of short-handed sailing races

SHORT-handed sailing was, John Bankart thought, a past passion.

But a recent race and news that the Melbourne Osaka Double-Handed Race is on again in March 2018 has lit a fire in his soul.

A phone call from a friend asking Bankart to race with him short-handed in last month's Brisbane to Gladstone Race dragged Bankart out of his hiatus.

He jumped on the 39-foot Samurai Jack and headed off on the 308-mile race.

"During the race, I realised I love short-handed sailing so much," Bankart said.

"It is so much more interesting, so much more to do.

"You control the boat and have no one else to blame. You make all your own decisions.

"I came to realise that is what I enjoy most. So, well, I thought, maybe we should go next the step again."

The 5500-mile race to Osaka, Japan, is held every four years. It is one of the few long distance races that runs north-south, crossing several weather systems and seasons.

Bankart completed the 1993 Osaka race with New Zealander Brian Peterson.

"He had an Elliott 45 which was a tricked-up boat, fully carbon, rotating rig and water ballast," Bankart said.

They finished first across the line and won their division.

It wasn't until 2007 that Bankart ventured out on the race again, this time with Japanese sailor Itaru Matsunaga.

They raced a 50-foot Elliott with schooner rig and canards.

The team crossed the line in second place and finished in first place in their division.

For the 2018 race, Bankart is on the hunt for an Open 60, which is the maximum size allowed. He wants a boat that is fast - seriously fast.

There is a race record to break, set in 1995 by Wild Thing at 26 days, 20 hours, 47 minutes and six seconds.

Bankart is a proven performer and he is confident he can find the right partner for the boat.

He has until the end of 2017 to put the program fully in place.

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