Monday, 13 October 2008

Ragtime (Infidel) Returns to NZ for HSBC Premier Coastal Classic

Ragtime working to windward at the start of the 2005 Transpac Race. Image copyright Rich Roberts.

Expatriate racer makes homecoming for HSBC Premier Coastal Classic

by Zoe Hawkins

Ragtime – the 60 footer built for Sir Tom Clark in 1964 under the name of Infidel – has made an epic 7,000 mile southwards journey to New Zealand, only to turn around and nearly immediately depart on another epic journey in the opposite direction, a 119 nautical mile sailing marathon between Auckland and Russell in the Bay of Islands over Labour Weekend.

It was 1964 when the Ragtime was built by John Spencer for the late Sir Tom Clark and since then she has accumulated more than 100,000 blue water miles. Based in the Based in the Northern Hemisphere since 1970, when she was virtually extradited from New Zealand because of her lightweight design, she has sailed more Transpacific Los Angeles to Honolulu races than any other boat and winning four of them between 1971 and 1974.

But Ragtime, who came to the Southern Hemisphere via a race from California to Tahiti, and to New Zealand just for the HSBC Premier Coastal Classic, is not going to be content with simply putting in an appearance. The boat, which has pre-applied for Cat 3, IRC and PHRF prior to its arrival here, is demonstrating great potential even against boats more than 40 years her junior.

Earlier this year Ragtime was one of four boats to break the 14-year old record in the 3,571 nautical mile Tahiti Race, finishing in just over 14 days and 16 hours, to win on corrected time. Her performance is due to a new carbon fibre rig and high-tec sail wardrobe, and the boat’s plywood hull has also been reconstructed and a new keel configuration added to give her greater stability.

The boat, which is owned by American Chris Welsh and whose home port is now Newport Beach in California, will stay in New Zealand until February.

The HSBC Premier Coastal Classic is the biggest coastal yacht race in New Zealand, and one of the biggest in the world. It started life 26 years ago as a drag race between Auckland and Russell for just a few boats, and over the years attracted a bigger and more diverse fleet, consisting of grand prix racers, America’s Cup boats, and small family cruisers.

Organised by the New Zealand Multihull Yacht Club, it is a race designed for speed: except for at the beginning and the end of the race, there are few opportunities to use tactics to overtake, and success can often depend on getting a good tactical start.

The race can take as little as seven or eight hours for the very fastest boats, or as long as two days for the slowest boats in light conditions.

As well as welcoming back principal sponsor HSBC, the HSBC Premier Coastal Classic is supported by some of New Zealand’s pre-eminent marine companies: Donaghys Southern Ocean, Harken, Line 7, Cookson Boats and Sail NZ, as well as the Duke of Marlborough Hotel, Steinlager, Mount Gay Rum, the Sunday Star Times, Trade-A-Boat magazine, De Walt, Dirty Dog and Yamaha Motors NZ.

Coastal Classic

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