Leading from the front: few Rolex Sydney Hobart-Winning crewmembers wear their victory watch with more pride than Justin 'Juggy' Clougher. Peter Campbell asked the tough Tasmanian what it takes to become a world-class bowman.Among the many Australian sailors who have made an impact on the international circuit, Justin "Juggy" Clougher must rank as one of the most successful. The Tasmanian's remarkable record, mostly achieved as a bowman, includes line honours and an overall handicap win in the Rolex Sydney Hobart. When he spoke to us from his Newport, Rhode island home he was still glowing from his fourth Newport to Bermuda Race win, and pushing for a place in the 2010 Rolex Sydney Hobart.
PC: How did you get into sailing?
JC: My family had a 30-foot Van de Stadt yacht, and there were many sailing trips away when I was young. I joined the local Sandy Bay Sailing Club when I was 11, and my first schoolboy championship was with [future world champion] Stuey Hamilton. The first keelboat I raced on was an International Cadet, and then later Cadet Dinghies and Rainbows at the sailing club. All my mates sailed, and many went on to become world champions.
PC: When did you get your big break in international yacht racing?
JC: My first international race was the 1983 Brisbane to Noumea aboard Hotshot, a Carter half tonner from Tassie. Then I sailed in the Clipper Cup in Hawaii aboard Sweet Caroline in 1984. I delivered her up there and was then invited to stay and race in the series. From there on I sailed on some local US boats, and within a few months I was on a brand new Reichel Pugh 47 that Tom Blackaller sailed on. I think we won every race we entered. Then Jim Kilroy, who is still a close mate of mine today, asked me to sail on his maxi ketch Kialoa. As a boy I used to watch his boats come up the Derwent, I never dreamed I would end up racing one.
PC: The Whitbread Race on EF Language must have been a significant turning point in your professional sailing career. What did you learn from it?
JC: That was a hard race. We were underdogs, but we stepped the intensity up and sailed our boat hard. We never let up. There was a lot to lose at the end, but we kept our focus. We applied inshore focus to a long race, and it worked.
PC: How did it feel to win the Sydney Hobart in Rosebud, and receive your Rolex watch?
JC: I could never have imagined an outright victory in this race. It's really a crew watch, but I'm very proud of it. I've been offered other Rolex watches since, but I have the only one I want, and you can't buy it! It was a joy to be part of the huge effort to bring Rosebud down and pull it all off. I sent a message to Jim Kilroy and Ted Turner (both past winners in the 1970s) to let them know that a US boat had finally picked up their footsteps. The both replied immediately.
PC: What is your favourite long ocean race, and does any one boat in particular stand out as a champion?
JC: Definitely EF Language and Pirates of the Caribbean are my top of list. Rosebud crossing the line after the heartache of light winds outside the Iron Pot comes very close. But every race and every boat is special. I have loved them all.
PC: This past year you sailed on Leopard of London in her Atlantic record bid, which unfortunately ran out of wind, and then aboard Speedboat in the Newport to Bermuda Race.
JC: The recent Bermuda Race was a great result in getting Speedboat back online. She is a very potent boat. The weather was quite gentle, which made the experience very comfortable, we couldn't really capitalise on her reaching power, as it was 10-15 upwind. With Leopard, I joined in a frenzy straight from an 180-miler aboard Rambler. My mate Ralfy Steitz ran me in a tinny at ballistic speed to the other side of New York's Long Island, and I jumped on Leopard and went below still in my overnight race gear. By the time I had stowed my gear we were already on the record shot. I rang my wife and told her I wasn't coming home that night. We were on the pace until it all collapsed outside the Irish Sea.
PC: How long have you lived in Newport, Rhode Island? Has it changed much since its America's Cup heyday?
JC: The town is changing but still a fabulous yachting hub. I have been based here since '84, but have owned a home there for 19 years. I live on the hill behind the Ida Lewis Yacht Club, 200m from New York Yacht Club. I am very good mates with Dave Elwell, Commodore of the NYYC.
PC: What advice can you give to young Australians who want to become international sailors?
JC: Yachting skills are important but so are life skills. You need to be able to take care of yourself. I was willing to do anything to sail. I am fortunate that I could sail well, but I also have technical skills that got me a step further. I could fix anything, was prepared to 'live dirty', and I never really lei anybody push me around. With all the technical gear, hydraulics etc on these boats, any technical or mechanical skills will take you far.
PC: What about the skills and techniques required to be a top international bowman on grand prix racers such as the TP52s, 60-footers and maxi boats?
JC: Watch carefully, don't be arrogant, keep your head down and learn from your mistakes. It's dangerous stuffing through waves on these super-fast boats so you've got to be smart, strong and sensible. Nerves and emotions can be stretched, but it's not worth risking your life. You do have to be a bit gung-ho sometimes and have balls of steel. And remember, it's not how you get into trouble (because, you will) it's bow you get out of the trouble that counts.
PC: When you race do you carry any special equipment, other than the usual for'ard hand kit of knife, marlin spike etc?
JG: I have three Lirakis chairs [classic bowman harness] and my Gerber tool. I can use this as a spike and knife anytime, as a back-up. Offshore, I always have a strobe in my pocket, day or night. I have a lightweight harness made by Metolius, which I can wear all day in comfort. I custom designed it myself, and now many of the Volvo boats and other race boats have requested them. And I always carry food in my pocket. That's me mate -food fiend!
PC: What other jobs do you do on a grand prix racing yacht?
JC: I have fallen into a technical role as well as the electronics department, and also I am boat nurse, and I deal with the media when necessary. We all have to be prepared to multi-task on board.
PC: Is the rest of your family into sailing as much as you are?
JC: My wife Kerry was sailing when I met her. "We've sailed together all round the Med and done Atlantic Crossings. I got to know her in Mexico before the 1992 Cup in San Diego. She has been very supportive of my comings an d goings, but she is fortunate to know many of the teams, and she has worked for some of the high rollers that own the boats. Our kids Zoe (11) and Graeme (8) are into sailing too, they attend Sail Newport clinics down at Fort Adams.
PC: When you are not sailing, what are your interests?
JC: You name it, I'll give it a go! I love skiing, water-skiing, and flying. I am helicopter pilot, have been for many years. I enjoy it immensely.
PC: Can you tell us any details about the US boat you're organising to bring down for the Rolex Sydney Hobart this year?
JC: I can tell you it's blue and over 65-foot. It's yet to be confirmed. I'd say it's 50-50 right now, hut we are pushing for it. I am always working the Hobart Race angle with every boat owner, but I wouldn't bring them unless they had a chance to win it. I am not that mercenary.
PC: How would you sum up your career as a professional sailor on the international grand prix circuit?
JC: I am fortunate to have a job I love. I still love it, but for many years we barely made a living. These days, for the rising stars the road is much smoother. The sacrifices have been large, but the rewards for me have been well worth it. If I could do it all again I wouldn't change a thing.
RELATED ARTICLE: The rise of Juggy
1984: Competes in first grand prix race at the Clipper Cup in Hawaii.
1996: Winner, Newport Bermuda Race, Boomerang
1997: Winner, Whitbread Round the World Race, EF Language. Line honours, Rolex Sydney Hobart, Sayonara.
2000: Bowman on America's Cup yacht America One.
2003: Bowman on America's Cup yacht One World Challenge.
2006: 2nd place, Volvo Ocean Race, Pirates of the Caribbean. Yachtsman of the Year, Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania.
2007: Winner, Rolex Sydney Hobart, Rosebud.
2010: Winner, Newport Bermuda Race, Speedboat