Race Team - Jay Haller

17 September 2014

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From rotten fish inside engines to shark bites damaging rudders and Australian cockatoos destructing masthead wind instruments, Clipper Race maintenance manager Jay Haller has seen it all.

The South African has worked on some comical mishaps as well as more serious repairs for six editions of the Clipper Race over 12 years. ‘The Chief’ as he is known can always be seen with his team waiting to leap on board as soon as the boats start arriving in port.

As a child, Jay always loved tinkering with toy trucks and model boats and a career as a specialist technician beckoned.

After completing his National Service in South Africa in a medical corps, Jay did a college apprenticeship in engineering.

He then went to Antarctica for an adventure as a technician with machinery company Caterpillar, representing the South African government to help build a new research post.

After a season on America’s Cup boats France 2 and France 3, Jay joined the Clipper Race team in 2002.

“Once you get onto a boat it’s addictive. No day is ever the same. I could never be stuck in an office,” he says.

“It is more of a lifestyle than a job and I have loved meeting so many like-minded people round the world.

“When a crew member sees you coming with your tool kit and know you’ll fix it, it’s a good feeling when you fault-find the problem straight away and know they will be very relieved.

“You can’t say it can’t be done. There is always a way. The crew have a certain expectation.

“The pressure is huge – more so this race than ever before.”

He says his biggest ever challenge was during the 2002-03 edition of the race when a skipper had started the generator without doing the engine checks which pumped all the oil out. Jay got an engine flown in from the UK to Batam, Indonesia, and fitted it in 45 minutes.

During the Clipper 2009-10 Race he had to rebuild an engine after jumping on the boat eleven miles out of Singapore after the pistons went in 40 degree heat.

“I have a great team around me and know I can rely on them to get on with the job at hand. We are very close outside of work as well and that is important when you are working such long hours abroad away from family.

“It is a very satisfying job and seeing so many cultures around the world has been amazing.”

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