Saturday night proved a harrowing one for the crews competing in the 71st edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Exactly 24 hours after the majestic start in Sydney Harbour, a quarter of the fleet has retired due to damage that included broken rudders, a dismasting and numerous shredded sails, inflicted by gale force winds and heavy seas during the night.
The retiring yachts included two of the Australian maxis, Wild Oats XI and Perpetual Loyal, both of which were considered strong contenders for line honours. Also among the disappointed teams returning to Sydney with damage were KOA (steering) and Patrice (mainsail), thus dashing their hopes of a good finish.
The 628 nautical mile Rolex Sydney Hobart is a true test of determination and perseverance, evident across the fleet as they display outstanding seamanship in tough conditions heading south towards Tasman Island and the finish in Hobart.
Testament to this is Comanche which, despite having hit an unidentified submerged object during the night, breaking one of the twin rudders and a daggerboard, is driving forward determined to stay in the race for line honours.
Comanche is closely trailed by Rambler 88 and Ragamuffin 100, both of which are expected to improve their chances of a line honours win as the winds decrease over the next 24 hours. That said, navigator Andrew Cape on Rambler 88 raccounted their recent status, which will impair their progress: “We’ve had a bit of a disaster. We hit a submerged object with our starboard daggerboard, so our efficiency on port tack is severely limited.”
On board Ragamuffin 100 is 88-year old owner Syd Fischer a veteran of 47 previous race editions of this iconic race.
The battle for the overall win also includes Swiss entry Teasing Machine, owned and skippered by Eric De Turckheim, reveling in the severe conditions and leading Giovanni Soldini’s Volvo 70 Maserati by merely a few miles on handicap.
The frontrunners are fast approaching the halfway mark and expected to cross the finish line up the Derwent River in Hobart on Monday afternoon (28 December).
Photos by Kurt Arrigo and Stefano Gattini/Regattanews.