Fifty not out, May set fair for Sydney to Hobart

Lindsay May has yet to notch his 50th consecutive Sydney to Hobart yacht race but he's already thinking about his 51st.

With three overall titles and one line-honours win to his name, May will next week become the first sailor in the race's 78-year history to achieve the half-century milestone, when he navigates Antipodes from Sydney Harbour to Hobart's Constitution Dock.

His storied sailing career began in 1973, when the then 24-year-old May stepped off his surfboard and onto a yacht.

Lindsay May is set to become the first sailor to reach the Sydney to Hobart 50-race milestone.

"I never thought I would get to 50 and I had no idea what I was in for," May said on Tuesday.

"I had done very little racing. Then I went sailing here on the harbour with a mate of mine who was in the navy and I was just hooked.

"I got invited to go on a boat to New Zealand - the three older guys wanted some younger guys to do all the work.

"Then the fella said, 'Hey, you did a great job. I will get you a ride to Hobart'.

"He got me on a boat, Onya of Gosford, in 1973 and I've never known anything else on Boxing Day."

In a six-page annually updated document titled How to Get to Hobart - ASAP, May condenses his years on the ocean into a list of hard-earned and well-learned tips for taking on the trip south.

Lindsay May on board Antipodes at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia
Talcum powder, hot drinks and a firm grip are the secrets to Sydney to Hobart success, May says.

Among his tips, May suggests sailors use baby powder to help dry perspiration moisture, have a list of the crew's preferred hot drinks in the galley and always have one hand on the boat - especially when dressing.

"I've been scared on a couple of occasions," he said.

"I do remember 1984 was a very, very bad race. I came up on deck and I was there with my arms hooked through the fence and we slid sideways down this incredibly steep wave.

"We didn't wear harnesses in those days. We just had to tie a piece of rope around our waist and have a clip onto the boat.

"I thought, 'The only thing that's going to happen at the bottom here is we're going to turn turtle' and I wasn't even clipped on at that stage.

"Then the boat - up it came and away we went again.

"We won that race on handicap."

In 2006, May and his crew stunned the sailing world when he took out handicap honours as the skipper and navigator of the 33-year-old wooden vessel Love & War.

But the veteran sailor confesses the highlight of his 49 starts is instead a race he did not finish.

In 1993, when only 38 out of 104 starters finished, May plucked fellow competitor John Quinn out of the Tasman Sea.

Quinn had been washed overboard and spent nearly six hours in the water.

Asked whether with 50 on the board he would be happy to close the chapter on his ocean adventures, May remained pragmatic.

"I'd like to think (I could make) 51 races, but I've got to have a boat to sail off. I don't own a boat," he said.

"If you do a good job, people say to you, 'Would you want to come along next year?'.

"That's just what's happened year after year after year."

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