Please select your home edition
Edition
Zhik Yachting Range

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race - Helsal to pay respect for Joe Adams

by Bruce Montgomery on 12 Dec 2012
Helsal III to pay tribute to the late Aussie yacht designer Joe Adams Bruce Montgomery
Rob Fisher and the Helsal III crew will pay homage to renowned Australia Yacht designer Joe Adams in the coming Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race by putting decals on each side of its hull. The 81-year-old Adams, the man behind three of Fisher family’s four Helsals and the Adams 10s and 12s boats, was murdered at his residence in Baguio City, Philippines last October.

Adams spent most of his life in Sydney before moving to Port Macquarie and then to the Philippines, where he eventually sold his design business and retired.

In 1972 Rob’s father, Sydney surgeon Tony Fisher, was attracted to the idea of a ferro-cement yacht to replace his boat Derwent Hunter. He figured he wouldn’t have to worry about woodworm or osmosis with a concrete hull. To Tony’s mind, there seemed to be a lot of positives, despite the prevailing view that concrete yachts would never be up to racing.

He engaged Bob Miller, later to be known as Ben Lexcen, to design a racing boat capable of taking line honours in the Sydney-Hobart. Joe Adams was working with Miller at the time.

'Bob teamed up with Alan Bond in preparation for the 1974 Southern Cross America’s Cup campaign, so Joe took over the design work of Helsal,' Rob Fisher recounts.

The first Helsal, named after Tony’s wife Helen and daughter Sally, was launched in April 1973 and went on to take line honours in that year’s Sydney-Hobart race in a little over three days. It has always been referred to since as 'the Flying Footpath'.

'There had never been a ferro-cement boat like this one. It was a very different construction,' Fisher says. 'Dad engaged a bridge engineer named Peter Ellen. He came up with the idea of positioning tension cables 45cm apart throughout the hull. Most other people had just used concrete and reo.'

Helsal weighed in at 40.4 tonnes, which was not overweight, considering Fritz Johnson’s maxi Windward Passage was 36.3 tonnes and Jim Kilroys Kialoa III, which broke Helsal’s record two years later, weighed 39 tonnes.

By 1975, just before the Kialoa record, the Flying Footpath held every race record on the Australian east coast. She was the first sloop-rigged maxi in the world (most others had been ketch-rigged), but powering her up was a problem.

'It had massive, massive rigging,' Rob Fisher says, 'and in those days you couldn’t build a sail that would hold its shape. With today’s materials it would have been much easier.'



The Fishers sold Helsal in 1979. She went to the Philippines as a charter boat, but went up on a reef the following year. She was towed into Manila harbour where she sat around during a dispute between the tow company and the insurer.

She was blown onto a breakwater in Manila during a cyclone and sank. She was raised, but the force of the incident broke some of the cables within the concrete and destroyed the famous yacht’s integrity. As far as Rob Fisher knows, she is still in Manila harbour 'With a half a dozen families living aboard.'

In 1979, Adams designed Helsal II for the Fishers, two metres shorter and of fibre glass. She was a pocket maxi, designed to rate the maximum under the IOR rule. The Fishers took her to a second and third across the line in Hobart races in the early 80s and she set a record for the Montague Island race in 1981. They sold her in 1984, but Helsal II may have been the best of them.

'In the 1980 race we were south of Flinders Island, leading Peter Blake’s Ceramco New Zealand,' Fisher says, 'and we should have won. We misjudged our distance from the coast and hardened up too soon. Ceramco overtook us; we caught up, but then lost it with some bad crew work.

'Blake came on board after the race and asked us to race him to Macquarie Island and back as part of his preparation for the next year’s Whitbread. We had to decline, told him this was as far south as we were going.'

Ceramco lost her mast in the first leg of that Whitbread, though still managed third place at the end.

The third Helsal that the Fishers owned (and still have) was Arthur Bloore’s Adams 20 The Office, which they bought in 1987. Bloore, a Queenslander, had fitted her with a centreboard. She was a cruiser/racer version of Helsal II.

During her time in Queensland, she had a small fire on board and Tony Fisher was asked if he would buy her.

'He wasn’t keen, but when he went up to see it, he couldn’t help himself,' Rob Fisher said.

In 1988 the Fishers broke the Lord Howe race record on Helsal III. It was then put out to charter in Bali. They sold it there in 1995, then it came back to Sydney in 2000 to be gutted into a full cruising boat, but sat around on the mooring for four or five years.

Tony Fisher tried to buy it back, was resisted so went to France and bought Helsal IV; a Philippe Briand designed cruising yacht. As soon as he bought Helsal IV, the owner of Helsal III decided to sell.

Fisher bought Helsal III for a second time and, with the Fishers all now living in Hobart, Tasmania, had local designer Fred Barrett design a fixed keel and generally update the boat, bringing the mast aft and going to a masthead rig.

Helsal III competed in the 2008, 2009 and 2010 Rolex Sydney Hobart’s, took 2011 off to break the Launceston-Hobart race record, and she is back in the Hobart for this year.

'For a 29-year-old boat she’s pretty quick for her age,' Fisher says.

'It will be a special race for her, given what happened to Joe. That’s not the way anybody should go. He’ll be with us.'

PS The Fishers sold Helsal IV last year, but she’s still around Hobart.

Official race website: Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2012

Barz Optics - San Juan Worlds Best EyewearPredictWind.com 2014Southern Spars - 100

Related Articles

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race – the better mousetrap
Rolex Sydney Hobart 2012 - The grand classic ocean race is remembered for many things. Rolex Sydney Hobart 2012 - The grand classic ocean race is remembered for many things from records and personal achievements, to tribulations and unfortunately, disasters too. 2012 will be no different in that department. However, rising out of the turmoil with a plan and path forward is the Supermaxi, Wild Thing and her enigmatic Skipper, Grant Wharington.
Posted on 2 Jan 2013
Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race video selection
Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race 2012 - A selection of videos Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race 2012 - A selection of videos including pre-race drama, 50 Golden Years three part documentary and more footage of the race.
Posted on 2 Jan 2013
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2012 – Quartet of honorary gentlemen
Sydney Hobart Race 2012 presented its highest award to John Kirkjian, Peter Campbell, Rowan Johnston and John Honeysett The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2012 presented its highest award to John Kirkjian, Peter Campbell, Rowan Johnston and John Honeysett for their individual contributions to the Boxing Day spectacle throughout the years.
Posted on 1 Jan 2013
Sydney Hobart 2012 – Maluka of Kermandie's arrival formally ends race
Sydney Hobart race officially ended after Sean Langman-skippered Maluka of Kermandie crossed finish line at 9.40.12pm he Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2012 officially closed its curtain after Sean Langman-skippered Maluka of Kermandie crossed the finish line at 9.40.12pm, ending up last on line in the 628-nautical mile ocean race for the second consecutive year.
Posted on 1 Jan 2013
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2012 – Prizegiving on New Year’s Day
Sydney Hobart Race 2012 scheduled to formally award the trophies to the overall and divisional winners on January 1 The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2012 is scheduled to formally award the trophies to the overall and divisional winners of this year’s Boxing Day Race classic at 11:00am on Tuesday 1 January 2013 at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania.
Posted on 31 Dec 2012
Sydney Hobart 2012 – Dump Truckers vow return
Justin Wells, Dump Truck crew vow to compete in 628 nautical mile race after being forced to retire The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2012 had been a testing journey for 2012 Ocean Racing Rookie of the Year Justin Wells and the crew of Dump Truck, who vowed to make their return in the Boxing Day classic after retiring from this year’s race with the finish line just roughly 100 nautical miles away.
Posted on 31 Dec 2012
Rolex Sydney Hobart 2012 - The match races within the race
The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has been billed as the match races within the race The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has been billed as the match races within the race – long-time foes battling for glory across several divisions, with just seconds separating winner from loser, while many had nervous waits for final results.
Posted on 31 Dec 2012
Rolex Sydney Hobart 2012 - Boats flood into Hobart with tales to tell
Day five of the 2012 Rolex Sydney Hobart has seen a flood of boats arriving in Hobart, each with tales to tell. Day five of the 2012 Rolex Sydney Hobart has seen a flood of boats arriving in Hobart, each with tales to tell. This has been a difficult race for the smaller boats; they have experienced a range of weather from good to bad. Few would deny theirs has been a true Rolex Sydney Hobart.
Posted on 31 Dec 2012
Sydney Hobart 2012 – Tony Cable successful in 47th Boxing Day race
Tony Cable, Duende finishes Rolex Sydney Hobart journey after three days, 22 hours and nine minutes The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2012 was a turnaround for Tony Cable from last year’s short-lived journey as the 47-time Boxing Day race participant skippered Duende to the finish line after three days, 22 hours and nine minutes.
Posted on 30 Dec 2012
Sydney Hobart 2012 – Gold medalist looks for more sailing challenges
Australian Paralympian great Liesl Tesch enjoys latest Boxing Day race adventure, eyes more Sydney Hobart Race voyages The fast and furious nature of their latest Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race adventure makes Australian Paralympian great Liesl Tesch and the DisABILITIES crew craving for more 628-nautical mile voyage in the future.
Posted on 30 Dec 2012