At 56, having done six Hobarts already, David McKay wasn’t at all interested when Michael Spies asked him to join the team on P&O Nedlloyd for the 2002 Rolex Sydney Hobart yacht race.
But Spies doesn’t take no for an answer easily. The next day he called McKay again, but with a different proposition. “How would you like to win a Hobart?”
So on Boxing Day P&O Nedlloyd will start with McKay as co-helm. Because McKay likes to win.
“I’m not going to Hobart for the ride. I am going to win. There is not much pleasure in a Hobart race. You’re so far offshore there’s nothing to look at, the conditions are tough. Going North is much more pleasant. It’s the competition.
“Oceans were made to race on, not cruise on.”
McKay knows about winning. He has three world titles to his name. In 1969 he was named Yachtsman of the Year for winning his second Moth World Championship and the 16ft skiff World title. He has also won national titles in 18 ft skiffs, Etchells and J-24’s. In ocean racing he has campaigned on the maxis Innkeeper and Bobsled.
McKay says skiffies bring a lot of “street smarts’ to ocean racing. “They’ve come up in a hard school,” he says, “a bit like growing up in the Bronx.
“Dinghy sailors generally develop a great feel for the boat. They have the ability to get the most out of a boat.”
If that is true then P&O Nedlloyd just might give McKay his Hobart win. It is awash with former skiff sailors.
Skipper Michael Spies is a former 18ft skiff World Champion. Angus Roxburgh and Stuart Broome also raced 18s when they were younger.
Spies co-skippered Nokia in 1999 when she smashed the race record, and is the youngest sailor ever to have notched up 25 Hobarts. He describes this 2002 crew as his best ever.
Spies says that an added incentive to win is Ashley Reed, the co-skipper of P&O Nedlloyd who suffered a mortal heart attack on the boat during the Sydney-Mooloolaba race this year. “We would love to win this race for Ashley. He was a good mate and a good sailor and we all miss him on the boat.”
David McKay has a second, similar incentive. This week his mother was released from Hospital with terminal cancer. The navy has arranged for her to watch the start of the race on Boxing Day from HMAS Watson.
And after Hobart McKay thinks he might have another crack at skiffs. “The Australian titles are being held down the road from us on the Georges River so we thought we might have a go. I’ve still got my crew from 20 years, but we’ll have to get to the gym and get fit.
“Of course we’ve got to reckon we can win. Otherwise you wouldn’t do it.”