Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin 100 is the latest of the supermaxis to suffer daggerboard problems in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, but in this case, it is the port daggerboard, and it has completely sheared off, forcing the crew to use desperate measures to continue in the 628-nautical mile race.
Sailingmaster David Witt said they had 127 nautical miles to make the finish line and had dropped more than 50 nautical miles behind Comanche and Rambler, the two US boats currently in contention to take line honours in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s race.
“We’ve had our fair share of problems,” Witt admitted from the yacht this morning, “but we’re still on track to get to Hobart and we haven’t given up.
“We broke our port daggerboard; it snapped off. We don’t have one anymore,” he said. “We didn’t hit anything, we just dropped off a wave in the fresh stuff and loaded it up and snapped it off. The wind has been on the nose for the last… since I can remember,” said Witt.
“At the time we were about eight nautical miles behind Comanche, but it’s caused the gap to grow.
That’s a Hobart race isn’t it?
“But basically you can’t sail without it. What we’ve done is quite dangerous. We pulled the starboard daggerboard out and drilled a hole in the bottom of it. When we tack, we turn it upside down and drop it in on the other side. Tacking is a bit of a process and a bit dangerous for us in the heavier conditions, but it’s a little easier in the lighter winds we have now,” Witt said, adding “We’re in a parking lot going nowhere, we have zero breeze.”
Witt and the crew, including 88-year-old owner Syd Fischer (the oldest competitor in the race), were hoping a westerly would offer them a lifeline – that they would make their way through a cloud line.
“It’s very frustrating given the last 36 hours, but it’s a lot better than pulling out of the race. Once we’ve got the daggerboard in, we’re sailing normally,” Witt said.
“Hopefully the leaders might sit in a hole longer than us. I think at last check Rambler was only 20 something miles ahead, so we certainly haven’t given up hope of catching them,” he said, referring to both Comanche and Rambler.
“You wouldn’t wear a (Ragamuffin) blue shirt if you were going to give up,” Witt said, well aware the words ‘give up’ are not in the vocabulary of his owner.
In other news, Matt Allen’s Carkeek 60 Ichi Ban remains in a battle of her own with Chinese Whisper and Balance and has been since the start of the race.
Navigator Will Oxley said this morning: “We’re still hanging in there. We’re watching Balance (Paul Clitheroe’s TP52) closely – they look to have done well inshore. And Chinese Whisper has been locked with us since early in the race.
“We’re looking forward to some lighter winds to have a decent feed. Looks like we will see the next front near Tasman, so some more heavy air upwind may be on the cards before the finish,” Oxley said.
At 11.30am, Chinese Whisper was three nautical miles ahead of Ichi Ban, in fifth and sixth places on line honours and fourth and sixth places overall respectively. Who knows what the end of the race will bring, with two very different weather patterns on offer for the mid-size and smaller boats?
Di Pearson, RSHYR Media