Father-son quest

Three father-son combinations crewed aboard the vibrant, pink-hulled Stefan Racing, the Botin 80 that matched it with the supermaxis.

Written by Rupert Guinness/RSHYR media
Photography by © Salty Dingo 2021

30 December 2021


The edge of difference Stefan Racing provided the 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race came in many ways and beyond the bright fluoro-pink and rainbow colouring of its hull.

There was the impressive performance of the Botin 80 to match the three 100-footers at the start and still finish in fourth place on line honours on Wednesday.

There was the back story to sponsor Steve Ackerie AM, powerboat legend and owner of the Stefan chain of hair salons in Queensland and NSW.

There was the four-way partnership of the boat ownership between skipper Grant Wharington and three of his fellow crew, Paul Heyes, Doug Sallis and Adrian Seiffert.

On the crew also are three father-son combinations, including the youngest in the fleet (Zac Heyes): Ollie and Grant Wharington, Zac and Paul Heyes, and Jarrod and Doug Sallis.


Rupert Guinness caught up with them all after the Race for their comments and observations about their experiences.

Ollie and Grant Wharington

(To Ollie) What was your job?

Mid bow, helping to pull up and down sails… Carrying sails forward when we had no air. Pushing sails back when we had too much air. It was a never-ending cycle.”

Is your father different to the person we have followed for so many years in public?

“Nah … Absolutely not. He’s exactly the way you know him.”

Is there a favourite moment from the race?

“Oh yeah. One hundred percent. The unfurling of the ‘MOH’ [Masthead Code Zero] at the start line.

“It was unreal … alongside Scallywag. It was such a good start. That was great.

“And then the punishment that followed a few hours later. Yeah, that was pretty good.”

To Grant: What was it like having your son as crew?

“Ollie has been following me down here for the past 25 years with the family. This is the first time he has actually done the race. It’s pretty cool.”

A quick thought about the line honours winner, Black Jack?

“I’m so happy for Pete Harburg, ‘Squark’ [skipper Mark Bradford], ‘GT’ [Graeme Taylor] – he used to sail with me a lot – and all the crew.

“Pete really deserved the win. I’m really looking forward to shaking his hand, congratulating him and buying him a beer.”

Despite COVID, the race was still held – unlike last year. Your thoughts?

“It’s such a great event for Tasmania. It’s a great event for the CYCA. It’s a great event to compete in.

“It showed everybody’s will to work together, to make sure everything could go ahead, [that] whatever it took, we were going to get here.”

Zac and Paul Heyes

To Zac: You are the youngest in the race at 18, what was it like?

“I’ve sailed all my life. It was a journey. It was long, tough, it was good.”

Would you sail it again?

“Yeah … definitely.”

With your dad?

“Yeah (laughing).”

To Paul: How did Zac go?

“He took on every role he was asked to do. He ended up being one of our main mainsail trimmers for the last half of the race.

“He even trimmed the main coming up the river to the finish line. He did a great job.

“He wasn’t scared of taking on the big powerful winches. We would all be wincing looking at him going, ‘How’s this little fella going to do it? He’s gonna get sucked into it.’

“He [made] a lot of friends. He really enjoyed listening to the banter, being part of the banter. I think he learned so much.”

Jarrod and Doug Sallis

To Jarrod: You were mid bow. It is pretty wet there, isn’t it?

“Very wet and it was my first time sailing in cold water. So, it was cold.”

What does mid bow do?

“Mid bow helps pulling up and down the sails with a couple of guys up the front and relaying messages. It’s more of the heavy lifting.”

To Doug: You are both from the Northern Territory. What was sailing down here like?

“We’ve done a lot of sailing up north to Ambon, Timor, through Singapore, Malaysia, but this is our first time down here. We normally pack with a pair of board shorts and thongs, but this requires quite a bit of different kit for this one. But it’s great to be here.”

What were Jarrod’s strengths in the crew?

“I think just being part of the team. The camaraderie.”

How do you feel the three sons – Zac, Jarrod and Ollie – performed overall?

“None of the sons took the foot off the pedal. They all bent their backs and worked hard.”



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