Four supermaxi yachts made it safely through the opening night of the 2022 Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
Andoo Comanche led the field into Bass Straight, but despite ideal conditions the race record began to slip away.
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Only two retirements were registered overnight with Avalanche the first to go followed by Yeah Baby.
Comanche holds the lead in the race for line honours, with rival supermaxis LawConnect, Black Jack and Wild Oats chasing, an online race tracker showed.
“We always think we’re going to be the best boat out there and do as well as we can,” Comanche skipper John Winning said ahead of the race.
“We’ll just try and outsail the others and win it on that.”
Just before 8am (AEDT), Andoo Comanche led LawConnect by 12 nautical miles, with both Black Jack and Wild Oats inside 20 nautical miles of the leader. The four are pushing forward on the back of 15+ knot northerlies.
There were wild scenes shortly after the starting cannon when Comanche and Wild Oats were forced to make wild turns following near-misses in the Sydney Harbour.
“Protest, get the flag up, that was f***ing bullsh*t,” someone yelled on Andoo Comanche in the first two minutes after being cut off by rival supermaxis LawConnect and Black Jack.
Less than a minute later, one of the crew was heard barking: “you’re asking for a clusterf***, we’re going to be in a collision,” and labelled one rival a “f***ing idiot”.
Comanche hit a turning mark as it exited the heads and was later spotted flying a protest flag of their own, after another boat protested them.
On Wild Oats, which took two penalty turns, skipper Mark Richards could be heard yelling “furl, furl, we are going to do a 720 (penalty turn)”.
Weather is a critical factor in the race, which was first held in 1945. Though the supermaxis are expected to be powered by northerly winds to a quick finish as early as Tuesday, slower mid- to small-sized boats will still be in the water in the following days facing possible gales and changes in wind direction.
In 1998, when a deep depression exploded over the fleet in the Bass Strait, six men died, five boats sank and 55 sailors were rescued.
Black Jack took line honours last year after a tight tussle with LawConnect, ending years of frustrating near misses to cross the finish line on the River Derwent after two days, 12 hours, 37min and 17sec.
Ichi Ban, which is not racing this year, was the 2021 winner of the overall handicap prize, which takes into account the yachts’ sizes. The boat pipped rival Celestial in a race where dangerous waves and weather conditions saw many withdraw.
International boats are making a return after the race was cancelled in 2020 for the first time due to the pandemic, and Covid hit the fleet last year.
Entrants come from Germany (Orione), Hong Kong (Antipodes), Hungary (Cassiopeia 68), New Caledonia (Eye Candy and Poulpito), New Zealand (Caro), Britain (Sunrise) and the United States (Warrior Won).
Sunrise is a proven ocean racer, winning the 2021 Fastnet Race in Britain, while Caro has been tipped to take overall handicap honours, although skipper Max Klink played down his prospects ahead of the race saying: “I do not think we are the favourite.”
– with AFP