Disko Trooper goes from contender to real deal

In August 2020, Jules Hall started floating the idea of entering the Rolex Sydney Hobart’s inaugural Two-Handed Division with his sailing mate, Jan ‘Clogs’ Scholten.

Along with 16 other entries, the pair made history when they started the race on Hall’s J/99, Disko Trooper_Contender Sailcloth.

At 03:01:42am this morning, the two Sydney sailors crossed the finish line in Hobart, the second two-hander to do so, behind Rob Gough and John Saul’s Sidewinder. Both looked happy with their lot in life. As well they might, as Disko Trooper_Contender Sailcloth is primed to win the race’s first ever two-handed trophy, awarded to the winner on IRC.

They have also won ORCi overall, and if Crux (Carlos Aydos & Peter Grayson) doesn’t finish by 07.52.30pm tonight, then Hall and Scholten will also win PHS overall. Not bad for two Laser sailors, although Scholten is well-respected in yachting circles, both offshore and inshore.

Hall has now done five Sydney Hobarts, Scholten 19, and is a gun trimmer of note – that’s what sail makers and sailcloth makers are good at.

Hall’s boat is called Disko Trooper for Rudyard Kipling’s Captains Courageous lead character, Disko Troop. Added at the end is the name of Scholten’s company and sponsor of the J/99.

“We are proudly sponsored by Contender Sailcloth,” Hall says.

They were a good combo off the bat, winning the Two-Handed Division in November’s Flinders Islet Race, backed up with two-handed line and overall honours in the later Bird Island Race. Next they were the second two-handed boat over the line in December’s tricky Cabbage Tree Island Race, which translated to third overall. They were among the favourites to win the Two-Handed Division in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, and they have not disappointed.

We spoke to them this afternoon after they had cleaned up the boat and themselves.

Jules: “We run a very structured program. We had a goal, and the goal was to win this race. We broke down the jobs. How we need to sail, how we need to navigate, how we needed to resource the boat. Then came the nutrition and psychology.

“We wanted to win the Sydney Hobart, so [it was about] what did we need to do to sail our best race?”

Clogs: “Jules had taken on the old ‘the buck stops with me’. At the end of the day, you collaborate.

“I refreshed my own memory and my own experience. I wisened up a lot on the use of PredictWind to help. We chose something similar but simpler to Expedition for navigation, so I downloaded and practiced.”

Jules: “I have done a bit of navigation, but a long time ago. The interesting point, unique to each two-handed boat, is that some boats have navigation skills, some have boat building skills, some have steering skills etc. But at the same time, you have to be able to fix the boat, manage it and branch out from your comfort zone.”

Clogs: “Communications, preparations for that, with HF radio etc. is also important.”

On doing the race two-handed…

Clogs: “Before we went, I thought ‘I don’t have a contract, I could still say ‘stuff this!’ but I couldn’t do that to Jules.”

Jules: “I rang Clogs last August to see if he would consider.”

Clogs: “For me it was ‘do I have the energy and time’. I did a 100-mile race two-handed with him and came home buggered. So, I said we had to do the Blue Water Pointscore to get ready, so we did. Cabbage Tree Island was good.”

Jules: “No, it wasn’t, because we made mistakes. But it was good we could then prepare. It was perfect.”

Clogs: “We started more than a year ago and I’m still asking, ‘what could I do that I didn’t do?’”

Jules: “We got along OK, no problems between us. We stepped out to be the best we could. I feel we didn’t leave anything on the table.

“The results will speak for themselves. I found it rewarding. There are some exceptional sailors in this fleet. I feel honoured to come out so well in this competition. I feel very fortunate.”

How do they feel at the end of the race?

Clogs: “I think I have a friendship here with Jules for life – and I trust him. I know can go down and sleep and trust him that I will be OK.

“A lot of money, investment and safety was involved in preparing. I enjoyed the lead-up and making the boat ready. I enjoyed being forced to learn new things and I enjoyed the adventure. We had the unknown.”

Jules: “We ran a watch system – we learned we had to do that in the Cabbage Tree Island Race – we hadn’t had a watch system for that race.

“Having said that, we had to hand steer most of the way (628 nautical miles worth). I didn’t want to admit it to myself, but you are basically sailing single-handed to Hobart.

“Seventy-five miles offshore in the pitch black, you are there on your own not being able to see while your co-skipper is off watch.

“I would definitely do the race again with Clogs, yes. And it’s definitely really special to be part of the inaugural event.”

Di Pearson/RSHYR Media

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