Sydney to Hobart veteran Drew Taylor: race is unfinished business

Sydney to Hobart veteran Drew Taylor, who has taken part in the race 25 times, reflects on his ambition to finally claim first place in the handicap class

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 January, 2017, 3:18pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 January, 2017, 8:49pm

I started sailing the Hobart when I was 16 on board Chutzpah with my father, Bruce. He was born in New Zealand and my mother in Melbourne, and my wife says I have a chip on both shoulders and a passport for each of them.

We’ve had six boats called Chutzpah – Yiddish for audacity – even though no Aussie sports commentator can seem to pronounce it.

The Hobart race is unfinished business. Winning every position in the top 10 but first place on handicap has been punishing. If you can’t win your race, it’s important to try to win your division. We’ve won that 11 times.

We’ve had 10 years plus of the same crew. Chutzpah is unique in that we are 100 per cent Corinthian. No one gets paid. It’s harder to compete this way with all the red-hot yachties and ‘rock stars’ in the race these days.

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The race offers all weather conditions. There’s the fracas to get down the harbour and out the heads, a fair bit of current and major waves down the south coast. Then you head across Bass Strait, where a funnel of currents and conditions that can throw up big waves.

Then you scream down the coast up Storm Bay to hit the Derwent River, where boats can be parked. The last 40 miles can take as much time as the rest of the race.

This year’s light weather can lull people into a false sense of security. I remember Hobart 98 when five boats sank and six people died. We were facing waves that were 80-foot high in a 36-foot boat.

This year marked my 25th Hobart and is regarded as a major milestone. Your name goes up on a big wooden map of Tasmania at the CYC [Cruising Yacht Club of Australia]. My father and I are the only father and son team to have done this.