SAILING

Comanche wins Sydney to Hobart yacht race: first American boat to take line honours since 1998

After damaging a rudder and initially deciding to withdraw, the crew of the super maxi stage an epic fightback for victory

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 December, 2015, 9:12pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 December, 2015, 12:25pm

American super maxi Comanche staged an epic fightback to take line honours in the tough Sydney to Hobart yachting race on Monday after damaging a rudder in treacherous conditions that knocked out around one-third of this year’s entrants.

That is a hard, hard body of water. It was my decision [to continue]. Sure enough this boat did its thing and got us out of trouble. We love this boat
Ken Read, Comanche skipper

Comanche sailed into Constitution Dock in Hobart, in the state of Tasmania, after crossing the finishing line at around 7pm Hong Kong time ahead of compatriot Rambler 88, which was set to take second place, followed by Australia’s Ragamuffin 100 and Italy’s Maserati.

Rambler 88 had led the race for several hours after Comanche briefly retired on Saturday night, before the Americans quickly reversing that decision and elected to battle on.

Most of the leading yachts sustained damage this year, amid wild weather and southerly gusts of up to 40 knots that knocked out the Australian pre-race favourite Wild Oats XI, thwarting its bid to break its record of eight victories.

Organisers say it has been the toughest race since 2004.

It is a sweet victory for Comanche’s owner Jim Clark as well as for Australian co-owner Kristy Hinze-Clark, who was among the crew and was showered with champagne as the yacht arrived in Hobart to a crowd of supporters dressed in traditional Native American headdress.

The victory was even more special for Comanche’s skipper Ken Read.

“That is a hard, hard body of water,” Read said after arriving at the finish line, recounting his decision to continue the race despite damage to a daggerboard and a rudder.

“It was my decision. Sure enough this boat did its thing and got us out of trouble.

“We love this boat.”

It is the first victory for Comanche, a 100 foot super maxi designed to be the fastest monohull ever built, and deliberately made to break records. It is also the first time since 1998 that a US yacht has won the blue water event.

On its first attempt at the 630-nautical-mile classic in 2014, Comanche lost its early lead and ultimately had to settle for second place as Wild Oats XI won a record eighth line honours title.

Comanche had already stamped its seal on the race as the fleet headed out of Sydney Harbour on Saturday but then ran into trouble as conditions worsened a few hours later.

Its crew spent 13 hours battling to regain the lead from Rambler 88, which belatedly discovered it too had sustained damage.

Comanche finally crossed the finish line in a time of two days, eight hours, 58 minutes and 30 seconds.