Comanche becomes first American entry to take Sydney to Hobart line honours since 98

American yacht Comanche was through the worst of it on Monday and sailing towards line honours in what has been a testing 2015 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.
Supermaxi yacht Comanche shown at the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race on Saturday. Peter Parks / AFP / December 26, 2015
Supermaxi yacht Comanche shown at the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race on Saturday. Peter Parks / AFP / December 26, 2015

American yacht Comanche won line honours in Australia’s gruelling Sydney to Hobart Monday, staging a stunning recovery from damage which had nearly ended her race.

The 100-footer was the first to cross the finish line after one of the roughest races in recent years, with more than 30 boats retiring after bad weather struck on Saturday night.

“At 21.58 pm today (2.58pm UAE), Jim Clark and Kristy Hinze-Clark’s Comanche claimed line honours in the 2015 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, completing the 628 nautical mile course in 2 days, 9 hours, 58 minutes and 30 seconds,” organisers said.

Comanche is the first American entry to take line honours since 1998.

The boat had sustained damage in punishing winds off the New South Wales coast on Saturday night which tore into the fleet, shredding sails, damaging rudders and hulls and breaking one yacht’s mast.

A savage southerly blasted the boats off the New South Wales coast on the first night at sea on Saturday, resulting in 32 of the 108 entries retiring from the gruelling 628-nautical mile race down Australia’s east coast.

Among the casualties were two strong contenders for line honours – eight-time fastest finisher Wild Oats XI, forced back to Sydney after her mainsail ripped, and supermaxi Perpetual Loyal with rudder damage.

Comanche hit an unidentified submerged object during the fierce conditions on Saturday night which broke one of the 100-footer’s twin rudders and a daggerboard.

Skipper Ken Read had initially considered retiring but “decided to punch on through” and running repairs were made to the boat.

“I don’t care if we limp over the line. We are going to finish this damned race,” he said.

Comanche finished runner-up for line honours to Wild Oats XI in her first Sydney to Hobart last year, and has been a hot favourite after setting a new 24-hour monohull record of 618.01 nautical miles in July.

Her biggest competition for line honours had been from Rambler which also hit something in the water on Saturday, sustaining similar damage.

“We have no idea what we hit, we couldn’t see it,” the yacht’s navigator Andrew Cape said.

“It might have been marine life or flotsam, but it was a solid hit. It shook the boat.”

Of the 108 boats which started the race in Sydney Harbour on Saturday, 32 have been forced out, including some with shredded sails or hull and steering damage and one with a broken mast.

Sailors returning to Sydney on Sunday spoke of the terrifying conditions, with winds of up to 40 knots.

Julia Cooney, on board Brindabella, told The Australian newspaper that “nothing can prepare you for something like that”.

“It was like hitting a wall of water; hitting you in the face, sea water, rain water – you couldn’t tell.

“It was pitch black and the boat was crashing through the waves at 11 knots.”

Australian entry Ragamuffin 100 was revealed as the latest of the supermaxis to be damaged, with the port daggerboard completely sheared off in the race organised by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia.

“We’ve had our fair share of problems but we’re still on track to get to Hobart and we haven’t given up,” sailing master David Witt said earlier Monday.

“We broke our port daggerboard; it snapped off. We don’t have one any more.

“We didn’t hit anything, we just dropped off a wave in the fresh stuff and loaded it up and snapped it off.”

The race record – set by Wild Oats XI in 2012 – is one day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds.

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Published: December 28, 2015 04:00 AM

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