RSYS Member Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin 100 overcame ferocious conditions and significant damage to come second in the RSHYR.
A match race up the River Derwent from the Tasman Light and a heart-stopping decision not to follow Rambler when she gybed in the final stages of the race, resulted in second over line for 88 year-old Syd Fischer and his Ragamuffin 100.
Those events were put into perspective when sailing master/skipper David Witt re-told the real story of their trials on the first night and second days at sea.
Witt told how on the first night in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, things went horribly wrong for Team Ragamuffin.
“It was 10 to 10.30 at night when the southerly hit. It was intense and relentless. We were trying to get the main down heading north when the boat literally capsized on top of us. Shave (Justin Shave) was on the bow and under water, the main, half down, knocked me off the back of the boat. I was hanging on to the back end and my sea boots were dragged off me.
“All I was thinking was, ‘can someone press the canting button (to centralise the keel), cos I can’t reach it from where I am’.
“We were under water for 15 minutes – the ballast was on the wrong side of the boat and so was the keel. Frightening doesn’t describe it,” Witt recalled.
Then there was a game of dodgem cars with two 25-foot whales, on a collision course with the boat.
“We had to swerve and dodge them – that was nearly catastrophic,” said crew member Andrew ‘Crowebar’ Crowe.
Losing all their electronics did not help, Crowebar apologizing for the lack of contact with the media on Day 2.
A broken port daggerboard was the dizzy limit, slowing the boat right down right when they had good contact with the lead boats.
“But we dusted ourselves off and kept going,” Witt said.
And let’s not forget a long stretch where sailing briskly at 25 knots became a distant dream when they were almost becalmed most of yesterday afternoon.
Then came the match race up the Derwent. At the last, Witt had to decide whether to follow Rambler, when tactician Brad Butterworth took the American boat towards shore looking for pressure.
“Did I feel the pressure of having to make that call – of course I did. I had Syd and the rest of the crew depending on a right decision. Lucky it was,” Witt said, adding they had overtaken George David’s Rambler once up the Derwent and then just before the finish.
“That’s the toughest one we’ve had for a few years – but it was worth it in the end. It was good to beat Rambler over the line. The crew did a great job – every one of them did the job they had to do.”
The last words go to Ragamuffin’s owner, Syd Fischer, the oldest person to ever contest the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 628-nautical mile race.
“I don’t have to do much anymore – I sit back and let the guys do it. Witty does a good job of helming and skippering the boat. It’s a good crew – all of them,” he said.
On their winning move, Fischer said: “We just had to try different tactics. We just had to do something different, and do it better – and we did.
“It was good to beat them – a good feeling. And I crossed another one off – my 47th,” he said with his trademark grin.
A snapshot of Fischer’s Sydney Hobart highlights:
Year Boat Design Finish
1962 Malohi (Lion 35) 5th overall from 42 starters – his first Hobart
1968 Ragamuffin 48ft 3rd overall from 64
1970 Ragamuffin 2nd overall from 61
1976 Ragamuffin German Frers 37’ 5” 3rd overall from 85
1977 Ragamuffin 2nd overall – 131, 72 finished
1985 Ragamuffin 3rd line/111th overall from 180
1987 Gazebo (this is 6th Rags renamed) 2nd line/3rd overall from 154
1988 Ragamuffin Line honours – from 119
1989 Ragamuffin 2nd line/61st overall from 170
1990 Ragamuffin Line honours – from 105
1992 Ragamuffin (7th) Farr 50 Won overall – from 110
1997 Ragamuffin 2nd overall from 114
1998 Ragamuffin 3rd overall from 115, 44 finished
2001 Ragamuffin 3rd overall from 75
2007 Ragamuffin (10th) Bruce Farr TP52 2nd overall from 82
2011 Ragamuffin 3rd overall from 88
2012 Ragamuffin-Loyal (11th) Elliott 100ft 2nd on line – 6th overall from 76
2013 Ragamuffin 100 Elliott 100ft 3rd on line – 52nd overall from 76
2014 Ragamuffin 100 – (12th) Andy Dovell 100ft 3rd on line – 81st overall from 117
2015 Ragamuffin 100 2nd on line
Di Pearson, RSHYR media
Photo Andrea Francolini Photography