Mutual respect between Sydney to Hobart rivals

ADRIAN WARREN
Last updated 05:00 25/12/2012

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They will be keen rivals out on the water but the respect between Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards and his Ragamuffin Loyal sailing counterpart Syd Fischer is obvious.

It would be hard to imagine two more different individuals but both are driven by the desire to succeed.

Richards is the high-profile frontman of the Wild Oats XI campaign, while octogenarian Fischer pops his head into the media spotlight now and then.

Both invariably provide succinct answers to journalists questions, not out of rudeness - far from it - but you suspect because they have more important things to do, like leaving no stone unturned in their racing campaign.

Fischer, 85, is the proverbial old salt, about to embark on his 44th Sydney to Hobart.

"Ever since I've been knee high to a grasshopper Syd has been an inspiration to all yachties in this sport, especially in the ocean racing scene," Richards said.

The two men chatted amiably in the media centre before the Christmas Eve press conference.

Fischer has given many young sailors a start aboard his boats over the years and is renowned for being a hard but fair taskmaster.

"I've never sailed with Syd, always against him, that's probably why we get on so well," Richards quipped.

This year represents Fischer's return to racing a big boat after several campaigns in smaller yachts, most recently a TP 52.

With a bigger crew required for a super maxi, Fischer cheerfully admits he struggles to remember all their names.

"I often say on a maxi you need to put football numbers on the back of the shirts," Fischer joked.

Fischer has assembled a quality crew of experienced sailors and the handful of sporting and media celebrities that sailed on the boat under other skippers over the past three years has been reduced to just one, swimmer Geoff Huegill.

"Geoff Huegill is a good bloke, you've got to be strong and he fits in well," Fischer said.

"He has done it (the Sydney to Hobart) before, so he's not new to it, so I think he's great."

Asked if the strapping Huegill would do some of the heavy work on the boat, Fischer replied: "With those big shoulders and thighs ... "

At which point Richards interjected: "Syd's going to be on his case the whole time for sure. Flog him Syd."

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