Get Out of Jail Free

Originally published March 2009The last time Ragtime tied up at my local marina, I wandered down to the dock, admired the varnish, and grinned at the dinky cabin. But most of all I admired the audacity of those long, skinny, hard-chined lines drawn by New Zealander John Spencer a few years before the boat, as Infidel, was denied entry to the 1967
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Originally published March 2009

The last time Ragtime tied up at my local marina, I wandered down to the dock, admired the varnish, and grinned at the dinky cabin. But most of all I admired the audacity of those long, skinny, hard-chined lines drawn by New Zealander John Spencer a few years before the boat, as Infidel, was denied entry to the 1967 Sydney–Hobart Race. For safety reasons. Plywood hull, indeed.

Now, some 150,000 miles later and carrying the name that became a legend in Pacific Ocean racing—back-to-back line honors in the Transpac, 1973 and 1975—Ragtime has come away from the latest Rolex Sydney–Hobart with a division win, after winning last summer’s Los Angeles–Tahiti Race and then cruising on south.

Back at my local, I gave those gleaming topsides a loving pat. Not many boats affect me this way. Dorade, Bolero, Windward Passage—that’s my shortlist.

What sets such boats apart? History, but there are other famous boats. There’s something more, something that twangs the heartstrings, that tells you this boat has stories in her bones, that she is damned near alive. How else to explain the Chris Welsh phenomenon, Welsh being the passionate Californian who in 2004 rescued Ragtime via a sheriff’s auction? “You had to go through barbed-wire fences and guard dogs,” he says. “The boat was chained, surrounded by impounded fishing boats—in jail.”

In 2009 “Rags” is better than new, with updated keel and rudder and a crack crew who went into the Hobart race braced for a tough go. Welsh got his thrills early on. He describes the start: “The fleet is split, with two lines [forward and behind] about 500 yards apart. This leaves the first-line fleet circling in a small box—supermaxis Wild Oats and Skandia searing through at 15 knots—and nothing in four years of Ragtime starts has been as adrenaline-charged, scary-fast, over the top; Hobart is the crystal meth of racing starts.”

This Down Under classic being famous for breaking boats, fair-weather sailors might get a grin out of (Morning Light movie veteran) Genny Tulloch’s recollection that “We never saw the gnarly stuff; the max breeze was probably at 40 knots.” Peak downwind boatspeed, 26.5, from a 1963 design. Oh yes, and there were the blown sails, the bowman wave-washed into the winches and put out of commission—stuff like that. Shifting down to the storm jib, Welsh notes, “happened at exactly 40 degrees South. Welcome to the Roaring 40s.”

To which we add, Welcome back to center stage, Ragtime.

Related

Shelly-forward-last-day

Charter Advice for First-Timers

Never chartered? No worries. A vacation under sail can be the most memorable time of your life. That said, it also pays to be prepared by doing some reading, building your skills and listening to what the experts say. First and foremost, not all charter grounds are created ...read more

HugoBoss

Video: Vendeé Update

Last week Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) led the fleet across the equator. As one of the class' top sailors who's been on the Vendeé Podium twice, it seemed possible that Thomson was going to grab an early lead and hold on to it all the way around the world. But early on Saturday, he ...read more

AdobeStock_229409051

Chartering Again for the First Time

It’s been a rocky road of late for the charter industry, especially here in the Western Hemisphere. First came hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean followed by Dorian in the Bahamas. There has also, of course, been the coronavirus, which burst into global prominence ...read more

01 LEAD cedaryachtclub_onedesign18_hike

An Interview with Ayme Sinclair

In recent months, US Sailing, like many organizations, has been taking a closer look at diversity to ensure it’s doing the best job it can of introducing people from all backgrounds and ethnicities to the sport. As part of this effort, this past summer it organized an online ...read more

125768940_10222759720523627_5373654001582879638_n

US Sailing Presents Adaptive Sailing Panel

On Tuesday, November 24, US Sailing’s Leadership Forum will present the latest panel discussion in their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion series. This event will focus on adaptive sailing and provide practical recommendations for organizations looking to expand their adaptive ...read more

02-IMG_5971

A Carbon Neutral Circumnav with Jimmy Cornell

Historic anniversaries have always held a special fascination for me, especially if they mark a significant nautical achievement. In 1992, on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ would-be voyage to India, I organized a transatlantic rally that followed the historic route of the ...read more

DJI_0068

SAIL Podcast: Jimmy Cornell’s Carbon-free Circumnav

In this episode of Point of SAIL, Principal Editor Adam Cort talks with bestselling author and pioneering bluewater sailor Jimmy Cornell, who set out November 19 on yet another circumnavigation aboard a newly designed, carbon-neutral Outremer 4Zero catamaran. The voyage, which ...read more

emirates-600x

Emirates Team New Zealand Splashes the last of the AC75s

Emirates Team New Zealand unveiled its second-generation AC75 yesterday, joining the other three America's Cup teams with boats in the water. In just over 100 days, this boat will attempt to defend the Cup for the Kiwis, but there's plenty of racing between now and then, with ...read more