Comanche tonight claimed line honours in the Sydney to Hobart race, arriving two days and nine hours – and 628 nautical miles – after the troubled start.
The US super-maxi’s crew overcome rough seas and foul luck to become the first international winner in six years. Almost a third of the starting fleet had retired by the time Comanche crossed the finish line, many suffering damage sustained in some of the roughest weather to hit the race since the tragic 1998 Sydney to Hobart.
UPDATE: Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin 100 stole second place from the US super-maxi Rambler 88 after an agonising crawl up the Derwent River through early Tuesday morning, repeatedly swapping the lead as they tacked in near-windless conditions.
It was a sweet victory for skipper Ken Read, who was shaded by Wild Oats last year. For a while it had seemed Comanche wouldn’t make it, having been named a retiree on the first night after sustaining rudder damage in 44-knot winds. But skipper Read decided he would not submit, and pressed on. His decision may have been spurred in part by the withdrawal of his 2014 nemesis, Wild Oats, with a torn mainsail.
A tweet from the race organisers the next morning summed up the spirit that drives teams to defy the odds in the race:
1/2 #RSHYR Comanche's Ken Read just called, he says: "We came here to finish, one way or another we’re going to finish this damn race….
— Rolex Sydney Hobart (@rshyr) December 26, 2015
A nailbiting 14 hours later, Read managed to catch and then pass another American raider, Rambler 88, which had led for much of the way. The two were neck and neck through the next day as light winds tested the skills of both skippers – and the flexibility of yachts designed to give their best in fresher conditions. Rambler was expected to follow Comanche into second place, with Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin 100 likely to finish. Maserati is some way off, and Ichi Ban is behind her in fifth position – and well-placed to take handicap honours.
In all, 32 yachts have retired with significant damage. A crewman on Blackjack suffered a broken leg in rough seas, and skipper Darryl Hodgkinson of Victoire suffered broken ribs and a suspected punctured lung when he fell as the yacht crashed into a trough. The remaining competitors are now contending with mild conditions, many limping toward the finish. – Jesse Mullens
Top photo of Comanche crossing the finish line from the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Twitter feed.