Big comeback for maxi Ragamuffin at Hamilton Island Race Week

The 27 ton bullet-proof aluminium built Maxi Ragamuffin is making its racing comeback at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week following a 21 year lull when the old girl toiled as a charter workhorse.

Maxi Ragamuffin is a German Frers design built in Mona Vale in Sydney in 1979, the same year when racing as Bumblebee IV for John Kahlbetzer the boat took line honours in the Sydney to Hobart. Under Syd Fischer’s charge another two line honours triumphs would belong to the famous maxi and Ragamuffin moniker, in 1988 and 1990.

The boat joined the 93-boat fleet at the inaugural Hamilton Island Race Week in 1984 and at least one part of the boat has been a permanent fixture at the island since 2009. The 30m aluminium flagpole on the flagdeck at Hamilton Island Yacht Club used for starting and finishing races at Race Week is the mast off Bumblebee IV which was lost overboard in Sydney Harbour then salvaged.

The mast was repaired and re-stepped in the boat and eventually replaced some years later by a more modern version. The original was stored in a warehouse in Sydney and forgotten until it came to the new yacht club’s finishing touches, when Commodore of HIYC Iain Murray thought it a fitting addition.

Maxi Ragamuffin’s new owner Keith Batt has grand plans for the 80-footer he purchased less than a year ago starting with Race Week August 16 to 23, then the Rolex Sydney to Hobart race in December.

In seven years Maxi Ragamuffin will head to Europe and the UK to retrace the epic sailing journey of the Nant Estate’s original settler who made the 10,000 mile journey from Cardiff to Van Diemen’s Land in 1821 to set up a whisky distillery.

Batt bought the convict built sandstone mill, last used in 1884, in Tasmania’s Central Highlands in 2004 and is successfully distilling under the Nant name. ”We’ve found French made mill stones the early settlers brought out from Calais in the paddocks at the property,” said Batt, the CEO of Nant Distilling Company.

Some yachts in the Audi Hamilton Island Race Week fleet have power winches, electric furling sails and canting keels. It’s old fashioned grunt on Maxi Ragamuffin with the original cleats and winches and plenty of lugging, grinding and a heart-starting workout at every sail change and hoist for the 17 man crew.

Given its vintage, trying to find parts for the aging deckware is proving challenging. Graham ‘Scooter’ Eaton from AME is overseeing the refurb and he’s had to arrange for replacement parts to be specially milled.

Some of the boat’s original sails dusted off for Race Week haven’t been used since 1993; they were dug out of storage at Airlie Beach. So far the big heavy boat hasn’t had the chance to wind up in the light breezes, or test the strength of the sail cloth in the gusts.

Also in Maxi Ragamuffin’s cruising division 1 is another big boat from a by-gone era – Condor, a two-time line honours winner in the Sydney Hobart race and winner of the famous Fastnet race out of England, and Whitebirds, an aluminium built Kel Steinman design originally launched as Bobsled.

The norm at these regattas is the workers sleep in the boat while the boat owner rents an apartment ashore. Batt is clearly enamoured with his new purchase. He sleeps on his boat and the rest of the crew stay in rented accommodation.


By Lisa Ratcliff/AHIRW media

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