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Esperance welder dreams of finishing Australia’s biggest yacht race

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Just making it to Sydney Harbour for the start of Australia's most famous yacht race will be considered a win for West Australian sailor Tim Stewart.

The Esperance-based skipper of boat Anger Management is in the process of getting his 40-foot yacht ready for the annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, which starts on Boxing Day.

Mr Stewart, a self-employed welder who admits he gets badly seasick, told the ABC it was likely to cost up to $150,000 to get the boat ready for the race.

Anger Management is less than half the size of the 100-foot supermaxis that can reach speeds of up to 30 knots racing across Bass Strait, and such a big spend does not guarantee the boat will qualify.

2018 race marks 20th anniversary of tragedy

Business Post Naiad is battered by the conditions during the 1998 Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the tragic 1998 race, during which five boats sank and six people died.

Despite the obvious dangers, Mr Stewart views the 628-nautical mile race as the pinnacle for any Australian sailor.

He joked his biggest concern was whether he got seasick.

"I've been known to get quite seasick, which is ironic really, considering I've owned a boat for eight or nine years and been sailing most of my life," he said.

"But it's been a while since I've been sick and I'm going to have all the best pills money can buy, so I think I'll be okay."

Yacht sailing with crew on board

Boat damaged in Queensland cyclone

The story of Anger Management and Mr Stewart's Sydney to Hobart campaign began in Queensland last year.

He bought the yacht after Cyclone Debbie swept through the state and filled the boat with water.

The next challenge was transporting the yacht from Hamilton Island back to Esperance in WA's south-east, sailing to Airlie Beach before a friend trucked it to his hometown.

If all goes to plan, Mr Stewart's crew plans to set sail from Esperance for Sydney in early October.

"It's roughly four weeks to get to Sydney if the wind is blowing the right way," he said.

"We need the boat to be in Sydney for probably six weeks to get it up to spec, and then come Boxing Day we're out of there. That's the plan anyway."

Wild Oats XI at the start of the race on Boxing Day

Safety a top priority for crew

Mr Stewart must ensure Anger Management ticks all the boxes for safety, while race officials also require the mast to be taken out of the boat for inspection.

On top of the boat being up to standard, his crew must have at least their first-aid certificate and their radio operator's certificate, and at least half of his 10-man crew needs to have done a sea survival course.

The costs are already starting to add up.

"I think it's going to cost around $125,000 to $150,000 to get the boat up and ready to go, and get us on the start line," he said.

Once the boat is up to spec, the crew must also make it through qualifying.

"Normally the boat would race a qualifying race out of Sydney, but we are going to do that passage from Esperance to Albany," he said.

"For us to qualify for the Hobart race we're going to head to Albany, and that's usually about 200 miles normally, but we have to turn that into a 325-nautical mile passage so that should qualify us."

Sydney to Hobart line honours winner Comanche

Skipper just wants to finish the race

Last year's Sydney to Hobart had one of the closest finishes in decades, with Wild Oats XI smashing the race record to win what would have been its ninth line honours title, less than half an hour ahead of Comanche.

Skippered by Mark Richards, Wild Oats XI crossed the line in a time of one day, eight hours, 48 minutes and 50 seconds.

But Wild Oats XI was controversially stripped of line honours after being penalised one hour by an international jury.

Comanche successfully filed a protest claiming Wild Oats XI had almost caused the two boats to collide at the start in Sydney Harbour.

Mr Stewart said if Anger Management made it to the start line on Boxing Day, he had only one goal.

Sailing yacht with skipper on board.

"I've been there in previous years and seen guys finish and the relief on their faces," he said.

"I've had a family friend who sailed on a 52-footer and they broke their forestay [a piece of standing rigging that keeps the mast from falling backwards] in Sydney Harbour, so their whole six-month campaign was over within the first hour.

"Our number one goal is just to finish."

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