The Society of International Nautical Scribes today mourns the loss of one of its most colourful members. Bob Fisher, who slipped anchor yesterday afternoon, was the doyen of yachting journalists and the greatest writer ever on the America’s Cup. His knowledge was encyclopaedic and what’s more, he genuinely knew the characters and back-story of just about everyone involved. He was formidable but encouraging and personally I have never forgotten when he took me aside at a SINS gathering on the first lay day of the Cup, as was the tradition, in Auckland in 2003 and told me to “be fearless” in my journalism. It was great advice.
To see Bob Fisher at work in the America’s Cup or at the Olympic Games was to witness a master operator but it was his writing that was so inspirational. I grew up reading his column in Yachts & Yachting on a bi-weekly basis long before the internet and YouTube was a thing. He was a window into another world and brought the America’s Cup, with all its twists, tales and intrigue to life.
Unafraid to be controversial and to probe where others feared, he was an inspirational journalist who I called ‘Sir Bob,’ a friend and mentor. An accomplished racing sailor, Bob could capture a narrative beautifully through that lens and his books and his writing will live on for generations. My deepest condolences to his wife Dee and the family.
Sail on Bob. Thank you.
If Bob were in Auckland today, not only would he be pleased as punch at having a British boat sitting in the box seat of the Prada Cup safely into the Final but he would be all over the American Magic story. It’s one of the great Cup tales and it’s all systems go for launch tomorrow. It has been one of the most extraordinary efforts to get back into this competition and just splashing down is a victory of sorts. But can they get back to winning ways and take the fight to Prada on Friday? Will the sailors feel any doubt or caution as would be expected after such a considerable capsize and the resultant effort to get back?
From a racing sailor’s perspective, I think there will be no issues. The team will be right back into it and operating at very close to maximum. Formula One drivers do this after big accidents and have an almost God-given ability and self confidence to jump back in and achieve the performance levels they expect. It’s no different in this game. Dean Barker, Paul Goodison, Andrew Campbell and Terry Hutchinson will be calling precisely the same moves as before – it’s a hard wiring in their DNA and the rest of the crew will have zero doubt. They’ve done the training – more than any other team – and they will be straight back to work. Straight back in business.
In fact, it could be argued that the team will be stronger for the experience. Sitting on the sidelines whilst Luna Rossa and Ineos fought it out last weekend would be a frustrating experience for the sailors and they will be eager to get right back into the fight. And if the boat is anywhere near its performance level of pre-capsize, then you’ve got to be seriously ballsy to bet against them.
Luna Rossa has definitely stepped up a gear in terms of outright straight-line speed but they are there for the taking for American Magic. I think it’s highly likely that we will see modifications that were planned for the Prada Cup Final coming onstream for the semis. This is all or nothing now. Keep a close eye on the sail plan and the foils. It’s going to be fascinating to see what they had beyond closed doors.
American Magic has won the hearts of the Kiwis. The support has been incredible and it’s building. Can they pull off the win of wins? Can they get back in this competition? Can they defy the odds? Can they pull off a miracle? It’s the kind of story that Bob Fisher would be engrossed in.
‘An Absorbing Interest.’
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