SAILING

Limping Comanche and Rambler lead what's left of storm-ravaged Sydney to Hobart fleet

American super maxis battle for honours, with the leading yacht expected to reach Hobart late on Monday

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 December, 2015, 11:57pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 December, 2015, 9:31am

Supermaxi Comanche extended her lead over fellow American Rambler in the Sydney to Hobart race Monday, despite both boats being damaged by brutal conditions which saw many of the fleet retire.

With about 100 nautical miles still to go early on Monday, Comanche was some 14 miles ahead of 88-footer Rambler with Ragamuffin 100 and the Giovanni Soldini-skippered Maserati chasing them.

Comanche led in the early stages of the race but hit an unidentified submerged object during 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.

We had a bit of a disaster ... we hit a submerged object with our starboard daggerboard so our boat speed on port tack is severely limited
Rambler navigator Andrew Cape

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 is now coming from fellow American 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 Boxing Day, 32 have been forced out, including some with shredded sails, hull and steering damage, and one with a broken mast.

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. 

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

Julia Cooney, onboard the 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.” 

The leading boats are expected to see lighter conditions as they continue to Hobart, but at this stage are expected to complete the journey late Monday.