Pittwater to Coffs - Ragamuffin’s first time skipper to defend title

The TP52 Ragamuffin finished 2nd over the line and first on handicap in all three divisions in the 2013 race - Pittwater to Coffs
Damian Devine
Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Regatta, the annual 226nm northern bluewater classic starting on January 2nd 2014, has brought back defending triple handicap winner Ragamuffin. A Fischer will lead the defence, but this is a first-time skipper with a legendary name in yachting circles.

Syd Fischer, a leading figure in Australian offshore yachting since the late 1960s has at 86 just completed his 46th Rolex Sydney Hobart yacht race on his 100-foot supermaxi also called Ragamuffin. They finished a close third over the line to Anthony Bell’s Perpetual Loyal.

Barely time to recover from the near two-and-a half-day day middle distance race and some of Syd’s Hobart crew will re-pack bags to join his grandson Brenton Fischer as skipper of the TP52 Ragamuffin when it heads north from Sydney early in the New Year.

'Syd took the 100 south and I’m taking the 52 north,' said Brenton. 'It’s not a case of Syd passing the baton on; he’s more active these days than he’s ever been. With three boats there are plenty of opportunities to go around.'

Brenton Fischer at the helm of the TP52 Ragamuffin - Pittwater to Coffs
Damian Devine

Brenton has dabbled in Flying 11s and Lasers as a youngster; 'I’ve done a bit here and there' is how he puts it. He’s well aware that the Pittwater Coffs marks his public foray into the offshore scene, and conscious of the expectations that may be attached to the family name.

'I’m no more important than anyone else on Team Ragamuffin. I’m just a member of the team,' he added, downplaying the association with his recognised grandfather.

'It’s his boat to sail and I’m easing him into it with a good crew,' assures Syd. 'He did pretty well in Flying 11s and he’s a practical person. He’s running Sydney City Marine; he’ll handle the Pittwater to Coffs race.'

Brenton carries one of the most famous names on the waterfront and like his grandfather, he’s shown an aptitude for business. The 29 year-old is a director at Fischer’s business, Sydney City Marine at Rozelle.

Last January Syd Fischer, boat manager David Witt and other key crew backed-up after the Sydney Hobart for the Club Marine Pittwater to Coffs race with the TP52. They blitzed the latter with triple overall handicap victories and second over the finish line.

Peter Harburg’s bid to contest his maiden Coffs race as skipper of his new 70-foot Black Jack has been withdrawn due to time constraints between the finish of the Sydney Hobart and start of the Pittwater to Coffs.

This opening has elevated Ragamuffin to frontrunner for line honours among the monohull fleet. Not a bad initiation to ocean racing for the new recruit.

Team Ragamuffin is Syd Fischer’s busy multi-boat operation coordinated by David Witt. The octogenarian has ramped up his sailing program in the past couple of years and is now campaigning three Ragamuffins; a 100-footer, 90-footer and a TP52.

A fleet of 38 multihulls and monohulls will assemble for the 1pm start of the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club’s Club Marine Pittwater to Coffs Harbour ocean race on Thursday January 2nd, 2014, north of Barrenjoey Headland at the mouth of the Hawkesbury River.

Sean Langman’s record-breaking Orma 60 trimaran, Team Australia, is headline act among the newly introduced multihull division.

Langman, son Peter and navigator Josh Alexander joined Grant Wharington’s supermaxi Wild Thing for the Sydney Hobart, finishing seventh from the fleet. They will shoot back to Sydney to prepare for an assault on the northern race and the multihull line honours trophy and record. Unless there’s a mishap, Team Australia is a shoo-in to reach Coffs first from both fleets racing north.

Bob Cox’s DK46 Nine Dragons will feature in the spirited competition amongst the 40-50 footers - Pittwater to Coffs
Damian Devine

The 40-50 foot range should produce spirited competition with the two DK46s, Exile (Rob Reynolds) and Nine Dragons (Bob Cox) up against the Hudson/Murphy/Lockley Farr 45 Pretty Woman, Steven Proud’s Kernan44 Swish, Ian Box’s Xp 44 Toy Box 2 and Les Goodridge’s X50, Wax Lyrical.

The smallest in the fleet is the multihull Morticia at 9.2m and the largest at 18.5m is Graham Buckeridge’s Custom Frers-designed Margaret Rintoul V, a showpiece on any start line.

The 33rd running of the northern tactical test features many fresh names; 12 monohulls and five multihulls are making their race debut.

The long range forecast is now available with and crews can start planning their route with some confidence.

It’s been a decade since Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats IX set the race record of 18hr 29min 14sec.

Steven Proud’s Kernan44 Swish will be amongst the 40-50 footers and one of the handicap favourites for the ocean race - Pittwater to Coffs
Damian Devine