As family, friends and well-wishers looked on Syd Fischer OBE launched what he has dubbed “my giant surfboard”, his newly-hulled Ragamuffin 100, at Sydney City Marine in Rozelle, Sydney, today.
Before having its keel locked into place and being lowered into the water, the 100 foot canting and water-ballasted Ragamuffin 100, still on its cradle, did bear a resemblance to a giant surfboard.
Among the other 100 footers Fischer’s 'surfboard’ will take on in the Rolex Sydney Hobart are Wild Oats XI (the Swiss Army Knife), and the newly arrived Comanche, which is already being billed as an ‘aircraft carrier’ due to its wide deck.
Unusually brief today, Fischer said, “I’d like to thank my team who put the boat together. They did a very good job and worked hard. The team worked under my sailing master, David Witt and they should all be proud of themselves.”
Fischer invited Liesl Tesch, a multiple Paralympic gold, silver and bronze medallist across Wheelchair Basketball and Sailing (in the SKUD 18), to christen his yacht. She represents everything the 87-year-old believes in; sport, willpower, tenacity, toughness, positivity and never giving up.
For her part, Tesch, an incomplete paraplegic who won gold as crew to Dan Fitzgibbon in the SKUD 18 at the London Paralympics, could hardly believe Fischer had chosen her: “I can’t believe Syd would give me this honour. He is a legend and an inspiration to everyone.
“To be a woman with a disability and to christen this Australian-made yacht the day before International Day of People with Disability is a real honour,” she said today. “Go Vanessa,” she said referring to Vanessa Dudley who will spend her third Rolex Sydney Hobart aboard a Fischer super maxi.
It was not your usual christening. The lively Tesch had all captivated when she questioned the bottle she was given to smash over the yacht’s transom.
With Fischer’s Hobart rival skipper, Mark Richards (Wild Oats XI) in attendance, Tesch said: “Syd, they’ve given me the wrong bottle; you said you’d have a bottle of that other yachtsman’s best stuff, Bob, Bob Oatley – where is the Wild Oats champagne?”
With that, Fischer’s youngest daughter, Dominique, handed Tesch the bottle with the Wild Oats label to much laughter and applause, but it took her four times to finally crack the bottle over the stern of Ragamuffin 100 – there could be a message in that.
Showing the bonds of friendships formed in sailing, Rolex Sydney Hobart rival (with Ichi Ban) and Yachting Australia President, Matt Allen, gladly played MC for the launch. “To put together a program of this magnitude is enormous. Without owners like Syd, it can’t be done.
“Nobody else has put as much into sailing as Syd, who I awarded the President’s award to Syd at the Australian Yachting Awards this year,” he added of Fischer, who at 87, has not slowed down and was very hands-on in the designing, building and assembly of his boat.
Fischer, a former surf life-saving boat captain and pro football player discovered his passion for sailing in the early 1960’s and has not looked back. He took line honours in the 1988 and 1990 Sydney Hobarts before moving to smaller boats and going on to win overall in 1992. Over the years he has finished runner-up and third on line and overall on several occasions.
Moving back into big boats in 2012, he finished second on line to Wild Oats XI with Ragamuffin Loyal, sailing the same yacht Anthony Bell took line honours with the previous year. In 2013, Fischer was third on line to record holder Wild Oats XI and Anthony Bell’s Perpetual Loyal.
Still relishing a challenge, Fischer said he had no fear of taking on Comanche, Wild Oats XI or any of the other super maxis in the race: “I’m just going to concentrate on sailing my own boat and I think I have just a good a chance as them,” he said.
Jim Clark and Kristy Hinze-Clark’s Comanche arrived in Sydney by ship on Sunday. She is currently berthed at Woolwich where her mast is being installed and the boat assembled ready for her first sail and the SOLAS Big Boat Challenge on Sydney Harbour on Tuesday 9 December.
The start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will be broadcast live on the Seven Network throughout Australia and webcast live to a global audience on Yahoo!7.
A Parade of Sail will take place from 10.30am to 11.30am, before A fleet of 118 will set sail from three start lines in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race on December 26 at 1.00pm AEDT.
By Di Pearson, RSHYR media
Watch the video by Geoff Waller from World on Water here.