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Ragamuffin 100 2nd Across Line in Rolex Sydney Hobart

Ragamuffin 5In one of the most challenging editions of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race in recent years, the 100 foot Maxi Ragamuffin 100 overcame several early stumbles for a thrilling finish in the veritable race.  This year’s event saw a wide range of conditions, with high winds that led to nearly a third of the fleet retiring, and light winds at the finish that tested sailors patience.  Ultimately, Ragamuffin 100 passed Rambler 88 in the final mile of the race to take second across the line in light winds that stood in stark contrast to the early part of the race.  Ragamuffin 100 had Mark Fullerton of Doyle Sails Qingdao sailing aboard, and the boat was sailing with a full Doyle Stratis sail inventory.  Most impressively, the massive Square Top main was first fitted on the original Ragamuffin 100 in 2013, stayed with the boat as a new hull was built for the rig and deck, and has now powered the yacht to 3 Sydney Hobart Races, 2  Transpacs and set the record in the 673 mild Hong Kong to Vietnam Race.

The first night of the race was the most intense, with a 40 knot front blowing through the fleet in the dark of night with intense rain completely reducing visibility. In the process of changing sails for the breeze, the massive furled A3 came partially unfurled forcing the yacht to bear away to try to get the 9,000 square foot sail back on deck while running downwind with a full main and J4 at 20 knots, into the swell.  After getting the foredeck under control, the yacht began reefing, only to have the reefing line for the second reef break.  In the chaos that ensued going for the 3rd reef, the yacht crash tacked, with the keel and water ballast now to leeward.  Ragamuffin 2

Skipper David Witt was thrown off the back of the boat in the process, only hanging on to the back but unable to help get the boat righted.

“It was 10 to 10.30 at night when the southerly hit. It was intense and relentless. We were trying to get the main down heading north when the boat literally capsized on top of us. Shave (Justin Shave) was on the bow and under water, the main, half down, knocked me off the back of the boat. I was hanging on to the back end and my sea boots were dragged off me.

“All I was thinking was, ‘can someone press the canting button (to centralise the keel), cos I can’t reach it from where I am’.  We were under water for 15 minutes – the ballast was on the wrong side of the boat and so was the keel. Frightening doesn’t describe it,” Witt recalled.

Ragamuffin 3While the team lost some miles in the process, they were able to continue while two of their main rivals, Wild Oats XI (R/P 100) and Perpetual Loyal (Juan K 100) were forced to retire with damage.  There was more drama to come, as one of Ragamuffin 100’s daggerboards broke, forcing the team to “tack” the intact daggerboard, no easy feat with an 19 foot, 650 pound board.  But in the end, the boat kept going and began reeling in the miles they had lost, and had the perseverance to pass Rambler 88 right at the finish.  In contrast to the earlier parts of the race, the final day saw nearly any wind.  “We never give up on this boat … we managed to get them in the end,” Witt said.

The race was also an achievement for owner and sailing legend Syd Fischer, who at 88 years old was was the oldest competitor to ever sail the Sydney-Hobart Race.  “It was good to beat them – a good feeling. And I crossed another one off – my 47th,” said Fischer upon finishing.

Ragamuffin 6 (Old Hull)

Same Main, Different Hull – Ragamuffin 100 (version 1) racing in the 2013 Sydney Hobart.

Mark Fullerton, of Doyle Sails Qingdao, has worked with the Ragamuffin team for years and managed their sail program.  The Ragamuffin sails were produced at Doyle Qingdao, which is owned and operated by sailors John Hearne and Fullerton.  Looking back on the race, Fullerton was impressed by how well the original main is still holding up.  “Everyone on board couldn’t believe how it survived the first night. I have no idea how and why the rig didn’t come down. It was about as messed up as you could get things. There were no broken battens or any damage to  the main.  As the race went on and we pulled the reefs out I was amazed to see there was no damage to the mainsail. No more than a few minor bits of chafe” Fullerton commented.  The main is a light weight, Stratis Carbon/Technora main that was fitted prior the 2013 Transpac Race, and has now been with the same rig after a new underbody was produced for the boat in 2013 and mated with the original Deck and Rig.  Having now powered the yacht through thousands of offshore miles racing, the sail is a testament to the performance, durability and light weight of the Stratis sails that are being utilized on many of the world’s highest performing yachts.

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