Tony Ellis is about to compete in his 53rd Sydney to Hobart race

Sailor Tony Ellis will this year compete in his 53rd Sydney to Hobart. Picture: Geoff Jones
Sailor Tony Ellis will this year compete in his 53rd Sydney to Hobart. Picture: Geoff Jones

One of Tony Ellis's first sailing experiences really should have put him off for life.

He was only a kid when he went out on a snub-nosed 12-footer with a mate - and almost didn't live to tell the tale.

"We did the best capsize of my life one school holidays off Middle Harbour," Ellis told ACM.

"It was a fresh nor'easter and we did the full Catherine wheel ... head over heel before we hit the wave in front. We had to swim the boat into Balmoral before wandering home. It didn't put me off."

It sure didn't. After first heading south in 1963, Tony is about to embark on his record 53rd Sydney to Hobart, crewing aboard the 63-foot David Gotze-skippered No Limit.

No one has made the 630-nautical mile journey more times than the ageless 77-year-old from Manly - and he ain't about to stop.

He said: "I have no claims to fame. It's something to do, something to keep yourself fit, something to keep yourself working, something to keep the brain active. I've been hooked on sailing ever since I was a kid and I will keep going as long as they keep asking me."

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Tony has seen it all in more than half a century of Bass Strait crossings - from whales to wild storms, snow to sinkings.

He's been part of a winning crew twice but rates the 1993 race aboard as the hairiest.

"Our hull broke up very badly and it was starting to leak like a soaker hose," he said.

"We were one of many retirements that year."

Tony is confident No Limit can this year at least match its seventh-placed finish in 2019 if weather conditions are favourable.

This story Meet the man about to compete in his 53rd Sydney to Hobart first appeared on Northern Beaches Review.