Supermaxi Comanche has taken out the 75th edition of the Sydney to Hobart, but not before some nervous moments on a windless River Derwent.
The massive yacht fished the bluewater classic just after 7.30am (AEDT) on Saturday to win line honours for the third time in five years.
Comanche made the most of strong overnight winds to break away from a five-strong pack of supermaxis down Tasmania’s east coast.
But she slowed in the River Derwent, hampered by light winds.
“That was dramatic. That was 30 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back. It was really very stressful,” skipper Tim Cooney said.
Comanche crossed the line in a time of one day, 18 hours, 30 minutes and 24 seconds, about 45 minutes ahead of InfoTrack in second place.
Nine-time winner Wild Oats XI held off Hong Kong’s SHK Scallywag 100 by a mere 38 seconds to finish third across the line at about 9.30am (AEDT).
— Annah Fromberg (@AnnahFromberg) December 27, 2019
After initially leading the prestigious race, Comanche took a gamble on day two to sail further out wide to catch a breeze, slipping behind Scallywag and InfoTrack.
But the risk eventually paid off when favourable north-westerly winds picked up overnight Friday.
Skipper Jim Cooney celebrated by spraying his crew with a champagne shower, his son James took his place when it was time for the traditional dunk in the water.
The yacht fell behind on Friday morning but regained the lead in the afternoon after taking a wider Bass Strait route to pick up winds.
“It was a long night. Everybody is pretty tired,” Cooney said.
“We treated the race as a sprint, we didn’t take too many breaks. We wanted crew on deck all the time. It was relief more than elation.
“We put the boat where we wanted it to be. It all went very much to plan, the weather was what we expected.”
Congratulations to Jim Cooney and Samantha Grant’s Comanche for being first to finish in the 75th @rshyr. Shown here at the start of this year’s race, Comanche fought back from a slow start, and battled her way through the leaderboard to take Line Honors. #rolexsydneyhobart pic.twitter.com/TJzwOyqc81
— North Sails (@NorthSails) December 27, 2019
Comanche ran into a bit of strife near Tasman Island, where an unknown object wrapped around the yacht’s rudder rendered it immobile.
“We were in a little bit of drama for a short period of time,” Cooney said, adding it didn’t cost him much time.
Comanche‘s previous wins were in 2015 and 2017, the latter coming in race-record time after Wild Oats XI was stripped of the title in a post-race protest.
NSW boat Minerva became the fleet’s third retirement overnight, reducing the number of yachts in the race to 154.
Meanwhile an ill-timed collision with a shark ruined Hong Kong supermaxi SHK Scallywag 100‘s chances of a Sydney to Hobart podium finish.
Gutted skipper Mark Witt, who launched a scathing attack at officials over radio check-in protocols in the lead-up to the race, said the accident happened on Friday night.
Scallywag had led the 75th edition of the race for much of Friday before being overtaken late in the day by eventual line honours winner Comanche.
The overseas yacht was locked in a tussle with the other three supermaxis when things went awry near Tasman Light off the state’s southeast.
“We hit a shark and it wrapped around the rudder,” said Witt, who was competing in his 24th Sydney to Hobart.
“We had to drop all the sails and back the boat up to get the dead shark off the rudder. We lost about four miles.”
Scallywag crossed the finish line in fourth on Saturday morning, a mere 38 seconds behind nine-time winner Wild Oats XI and an hour from InfoTrack in second.
“It basically cost us running second,” Witt said of the shark encounter.