by Di Pearson
This week, with a forecast all yachties dream for, Syd Fischer and his crew on the super maxi Ragamuffin 90 will have a crack at the 656 nautical mile Hong Kong Vietnam Race record set by fellow Australian, Grant Wharington, with the 98 foot Skandia (now Wild Thing).
Syd Fischer off Diamond Head, Honolulu, at the end of the Transpac Race
The record, set in 2004, stands at 42 hours 45 minutes and 41 seconds, but with a 20-30 knot downwind ride on the cards, it will play straight into the hands of the big boats and a possible new record.
Either way, a new record will be created in the race, which starts today at 13:30 hours local time, as the course has been extended by an extra 14 nautical miles. However, Fischer has his mind set on breaking Skandia's record for the distance with the canting keeled yacht originally known as Genuine Risk.
'I believe a record is achievable from what I've been told of the weather forecast - it's all up to the wind,' Fischer said from Hong Kong late yesterday.
Prior to leaving Sydney for Hong Kong, the Dubois 90 underwent major modifications with twin daggerboards added, rudder moved aft, the forward canard removed and changes to the aft deck to allow crew weight further aft all the way to transom. Powered sheet winches have been added, as has a new Doyle sails wardrobe from Doyles' Mark Fullerton, who will be aboard Team Ragamuffin.
Syd Fischer and Geoff Hill at Royal Hong Kong YC late yesterday
Adding to the quality of the crew are noted big boat sailor David Witt (Fischer's sailing master); British Olympic double silver medallist and Volvo Ocean Race skipper, Ian Walker; Matt Humphries, a veteran of five Whitbread/VOR's and 22 year-old Youth America's Cup sailor, Luke Parkinson.
The crew is a blend of experience and youth. It includes Geoff Hill, a RHKYC member and chairman of the Vietnam race committee, in the afterguard.
Fischer will use the experience as crew training and selection for the upcoming Rolex Sydney Hobart, which he will undertake with the 100 foot yacht he sailed to second fastest time in the 2012 Hobart, only having had a couple of weeks of preparation.
The 86 year-old then took the 100 foot super maxi to America and won monohull line honours in the Transpac Race, but the weather was predominantly too light for record breaking.
Other Australians competing alongside Team Ragamuffin in the Hong Kong Vietnam Race are Ludde Ingvall with the Simonis-Voogd 90, Chivas, and Ray Roberts at the helm of the TP52, OneSails Racing.
'I consider Chivas to be serious competition for us,' Fischer said of his rival.
Sailing master, Dave Witt's take on the race is: 'We're looking forward to fast sailing, breaking the record, but most importantly, sailing with a legend like Syd again.'