Jun 24, 2012, 1:04 PM
Post #1 of 5
Eulogy for Rolly Tasker
EIGHT BELLS - Rolly Tasker
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by David Pedrick
22 June 2012
Approved by Kerry Tasker, 23 June
Rolly Tasker, a legend in his own time, has crossed the bar. A cheerful and inventive Aussie yachtsman and sailmaker, there was more wind in his sails at last sighting, but illness has changed the course of his voyage.
Rolly was raised in Western Australia, where geography and culture foster inventiveness to survive. Rolly grew up modestly, hanging around boatbuilders and absorbing the art and science of sailing. He designed and built his first dinghy in 1936, when he was ten, earning money for materials by catching and selling crabs. A few years later, his mother began sewing sails that he designed on the family’s pedal-powered machine. Over time, he learned how to refine the shapes of his sails.
In his early racing, he was a bailer on an overpowered skiff in Perth’s Swan River. Through that and other sailing in dinghies and skiffs, he developed a strong intuitive sense of the aero- and hydrodynamics of sailing. He got plenty wet along the way, but his talent and determination drove him toward increasingly significant championships. In 1956, he became Australia’s first Olympic medalist in sailing, with a silver, and won the World Championship in the Flying Dutchman class two years later.
He opened his first sail loft in Western Australia in 1954. He eventually opened lofts in various countries, culminating in a modern, open and efficient Loft #12 in Phuket, Thailand in 1990. At 100,000 sq ft, it is among the largest in the world. In all, Tasker Sails has built more than a million sails, sold in more than 60 countries. Rolly was at the helm of the loft’s ever-growing business until very recently, nearly 60 years since establishing his first loft. Being 86 years of age on his passing, Rolly’s version of retirement age is quite a story in itself.
While building his sailmaking business, Rolly pursued ocean racing in a series of yachts named “Siska.” He competed across the globe for nearly 20 years, beginning in the mid ‘60’s. His most successful ocean racing period was in his self-designed and -built maxi racer “Siska IV,” which won or placed well in many races throughout the world. His most satisfying victory in line honors and corrected time was in the 11,500 mile Parmelia Race from the U.K. to Fremantle, WA – his home port – in 1979.
His fascination with the America’s Cup started as a crew member on “Gretel,” Australia’s first challenger, in 1962. He stayed close to the next 13 Cup Matches, cultivating his curiosity about the history and evolution of the America’s Cup. He commissioned color renderings and, later, scale models of all Defenders and Challengers, as well as life-size wax figures of iconic participants. He acquired America’s Cup memorabilia and created storyboards of the history of Cup racing. He assembled this collection into an America’s Cup Museum, the beginning of which he put on display in San Diego for the 1992 America’s Cup.
He continued to accumulate a substantial collection of marine art, ship models, yacht club burgees and historical objects about Australian yachting and maritime history. As a fulfilled dream, Rolly and his wife Kerry constructed the Australian Sailing Museum, which opened in Mandurah, WA, south of Perth, in 2007. It is a substantial, modern and extensive museum that will live on as a generous legacy to the country and sport that Rolly was so pleased to represent.
Rolly’s remarkable life is told in his biography, “Sailing to the Moon,” published in 2008. He was proud that he had competed in 2,400 races, and never had to retire due to broken equipment. He was an honoree in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, and was inducted into the Order of Australia for his contributions to sailing. From modest beginnings, Rolly achieved great success in competition, business and friendships, always in a humble, matter-of-fact style, and never losing his sparkle, creativity and enthusiasm.
As Tennyson wrote in “Crossing the Bar,” and Rolly would want, “Twilight and evening bell, and after that the Dark! And may there be no sadness of farewell, When I embark.”
A website for sharing memories and thoughts of Rolly will be online as of Tuesday, June 26: www.heavenaddress.com. Once in the site, just register and search for Rolly Tasker.