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76 SCOOP Autumn 2011
Building a legacy from a lifetime of sailing
words Morag MacKinnon images Rob Simeon
nstinct. It’s the thing to which Rolly
Tasker attributes his success. “And know where
the wind is coming from,” he adds.
It’s a characteristically simple comment from
a man who has led an extraordinary life. The
legendary WA yachtsman is an Olympic medallist,
world champion sailor and an officer of the
Order of Australia (AO).
He’s also a boat builder, sailmaker, artist,
collector and successful businessman who owns
and curates a museum. When the Fremantle
to Bali yacht race returns to the State’s racing
calendar in April after a 14-year absence, the
challenge for competitors will be to conquer his
record, unbroken since the first race in 1981.
That record – six days, 15 hours and 39
minutes – stands despite the unfavourable wind
conditions that saw the yachtsman “tacking in a
zigzag pattern all the way to Bali.” Now 85, Rolly
is patron of this year’s event.
In more than 60 years of competition – more
than 2000 races including nine Sydney-to-Hobart
races and the UK’s disastrous 1979 Fastnet Race,
which claimed 15 lives – he’s never lost a yacht,
a crew member or a rig, or had to retire from
gear failure. It speaks volumes about his exacting
standards in boat design and his skill as a sailor.
He built his first boat at the age of 10. His
theory was that the hull should be shaped like a
fish for ease of movement through the water.
“I used to g o the shipyards after school and
stand at the door and watch,” he says. “I watched
where they put their tools and how they looked at
the wood to see if it was straight.”
By the time he was 20, he had built his third
Sharpie and went on to win 28 championships
PEOPLE Rolly Tasker
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