Rolex Sydney Hobart- Words like ‘chutzpah’ and ‘hubris’ have that annoying and elusive quality that has you heading back to the dictionary time and again to remind yourself what they mean.
Perhaps like me you had forgotten that chutzpah means gall, unmitigated effrontery or impudence.
So when, like 26 time Hobart veteran Bruce Taylor, you name each of your six boats Chutzpah, you can reasonably expect to show some nerve and audacity.
Bruce Taylor is a modest man who could not be described as impudent, but he does not lack the nerve required for this race. You’d need plenty of that to have achieved seven divisional wins and numerous thirds and seconds in this race. With each change of boat there seems also to have been a quest for a little more leg room and the latest Chutzpah is the largest to date being a Reichel Pugh ILC 40.
So why the more radical decision to build a yacht that is all downwind pace and as Taylor admits 'struggles to hold her rating upwind', an important ingredient in a race better known for more time spent crossing the rhumb line than on it?
Bruce Taylor was providing a serious response to that question this morning when a passing friend prompted him to an alternative answer.
A good luck wish for a Tattersalls win elicited the jocular confession from Taylor 'well it’s got to happen soon, I’m running out of time and money'.
Push the line of questioning a little harder and it’s clear that while indeed time and money are constraints for most participants, each new Chutzpah has been another deliberate step in the Sydney Hobart quest that everyone - even the line honors titans - aspire to; a Tattersalls Cup win for the overall IRC winner.
‘I got tired with IMS and moved into one designs’ says Taylor. ‘I loved the Sydney 38s, but in the end they’re just not very fast and I wanted to go faster’. The new Chutzpah certainly provides that, capable of a top speed of 25 knots.
Taylor is not alone in this area of the fleet in believing that downwind speed is a factor worth pursuing, with the likes of Shogun and Wedgetail evidently snappy off the breeze.
Bruce Taylor is a consummate tactician on this race course and his pre race dilemma this morning centred on how far south they could get with the northerlies overnight.
‘I think the big boats will get far enough south tonight to get the advantage of the westerly bend south of Green Cape, before the breeze goes south in the early hours. For our part I think we’ll stick close to the rhumb line in order to set ourselves up for the southerly’ adding ‘there’s too much counter current along the coast at the moment to go wide; you’ve got to be staying where the breeze is’.
So, who does Taylor see as his rivals on the way south?
Taylor rates his competition as strongly as the respect from them is reciprocated; so we can expect a battle royal overnight between Taylor’s 40 footer hutzpah, the Simon Rogers designed 46 footer Shogun from Geelong owned by Rob Hannah and the Welbourn designed Wedgetail, a 43 foot yacht owned by Queenslander Bill Wild.
When asked to predict an outcome for the handicap result this morning on the dock both Rob Hannah and Wedgetail’s tactician Kevin Costin saw their primary competition in Chutzpah but also rated the 60 footers as the ones to watch for handicap.
There’s a theme appearing here somewhere; The fifty footers think the forty footers are the likely handicap winners; the forty somethings think the sixty footers are the shortest odds and Mike Slade and Grant Wharington expect to be beaten across the line by Wild Oats, whose skipper thinks they may be overtaken in a park-up tomorrow morning.
It seems that everyone’s an underdog.
So where’s the chutzpah in this fleet?
Well, at 11pm this evening the boat by that name is showing plenty of gall, chasing down the NSW coast at a cool sixteen knots leading IRC Division C, ahead of Shogun in second, Limit third and Wedgetail fourth.
The numerous ‘underdogs’ in the fleet will all be looking to get as far south as possible before that southerly hits in the early hours (perhaps 4am) of Thursday morning.
Hopefully there will be more grace than chutzpah from those lucky enough to come good in this overnight lottery.
Now, what does hubris mean again?