At 64 years of age Bruce Taylor, the skipper of Chutzpah, is nearing an era when most would consider retiring, but it’s not work holding the Victorian back from enjoying the red wine and his golden-years; it’s sailing.
Taylor has dedicated more than half his life to winning the Tattersall’s Cup in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, and after 33-attempts it’s proven elusive.
“We’ve finished second, third, fourth, we’ve won our division 10-times, but we haven’t knocked the Cup off yet,’’ Taylor said of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s annual 628 nautical mile race.
“It’s become an obsession; my life’s ambition. But, you know, I can’t go on much longer. I need to retire at some stage, I just want this first.”
The 69th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race could well prove to be the one that breaks the drought.
The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting silver-bullet winds that could slingshot the 40-foot Reichel/Pugh at race-winning pace.
But the skipper doesn’t want to hear anything about it…yet.
“It’s lies, all lies,’’ he said. “As these prediction systems have become more sophisticated they’re taken further and further out from the start date.
“In the old days we didn’t worry until race day, when we wandered down to the CYC, picked up the paper at a petrol station on the way and that was it.
“You had a map, and the rest was a guessing game. But now, we get this, with a lot of sleeps to go, and it gets your hopes up.”
If the forecast is right, which Taylor emphasises is a “big if” so many days out, then Chutzpah could be on one heck of a sleigh-ride in the opening hours of the blue-water classic.
Taylor tips that the building north-easterly winds, with gusts up to 30 knots, could catapult the racer more than 200 nautical miles and into Bass Strait.
It’s an ambitious first 24 hours, which will prove critical to Taylor’s quest for the Cup, not to mention the Rolex Yacht-Master Timepiece that is awarded with the Cup.
“We need to get to Bass Strait before that southerly change comes through,’’ Taylor said.
“If it comes through earlier, then we’re buggered, we’ll be bashing our brains out into the southerly, while the big boats get away in the fresh westerly.”
What’s keeping Taylor optimistic, despite having 32 reasons to be otherwise, is the fact that Chutzpah was purpose built to race downwind.
“When I went to Reichel/Pugh I said ‘this is my last boat, I don’t care about anything, just give me the fastest 40-footer you can give me for downwind’,” Taylor said.
“She’s extremely light, has a downwind keel with minimal drag, and the transom is extraordinarily wide, and it’s that fat back that makes her like a big windsurfer.
“So, this is a good forecast for us. But let’s just wait and see.”
By Danielle McKay, RSHYR Media