Battered Comanche wins rough race

Comanche close to the finish line in Hobart last night, as skipper Ken Read's decision to "punch on through" and make running repairs to one of the broken twin rudders and daggerboard paid off.
Comanche close to the finish line in Hobart last night, as skipper Ken Read's decision to "punch on through" and make running repairs to one of the broken twin rudders and daggerboard paid off.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

SYDNEY • American yacht Comanche won the line honours in Australia's gruelling Sydney to Hobart sailing race yesterday, staging a stunning recovery from damage which nearly ended its endeavour.

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.

"At 2158 (6.58pm Singapore time), Jim Clark and Kristy Hinze-Clark's Comanche claimed line honours in the 2015 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, completing the 628 nautical mile (1,163km) course in two days, nine hours, 58 minutes and 30 seconds," said the organisers.

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

Comanche is the first American entry to take line honours since 1998. The boat was damaged by 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 wind blasted the yachts, resulting in 32 of the 108 entries which began the race from Sydney Harbour on Saturday pulling out of the journey 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 main sail ripped, and Perpetual Loyal, with rudder damage.

Comanche was among those damaged, hitting an unidentified submerged object which broke one of her 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.

"That is a hard body of water," he said after arriving, recounting his decision to continue the race.

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

Comanche's biggest competition for line honours had been from fellow American yacht Rambler, which also hit an object in the water on Saturday, suffering similar damage.

But, while Comanche kept extending its lead yesterday in good conditions, the 88-footer Rambler was slowed by a lack of breeze in the final stages of the race.

In third position was Australian entry Ragamuffin 100, followed by the Maserati, Ichi Ban and Chinese Whisper.

Earlier in the day, the organisers were accused of racism after a tweet posted from their official account about the yacht Indian warned: "This is what happens when you stray off the reservation."

The tweet was posted on Sunday afternoon with a photo of Indian, owned and skippered by Craig Carter, running down the south coast in winds of more than 35 knots. The tweet updating the race situation reported that Indian faced "sea-sickening waves".

It was deleted yesterday after attracting a number of complaints declaring it "racist", "bad taste" and "culturally insensitive", but not before a screenshot was taken by the ABC.

The organisers declined to comment about the reasons for deleting the tweet.

The expression "off the reservation" is viewed as offensive by many Native Americans because it ignores the painful history of reservations.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2015, with the headline 'Battered Comanche wins rough race'. Print Edition | Subscribe