The brand new super maxi Comanche lived up to all the hype today when she lead the Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet out of the Harbour in one of the most spectacular, high speed starts in the race’s history.
Designed for fast broad reaching, the 15 knot plus south-easterly breeze on the harbour was made to order for the big red and black hulled yacht owned by American Jim Clark and his Australian wife, Kristy. After a brilliant start slightly ahead and to leeward of Wild Oats XI, Comanche swiftly unfurled her giant spinnaker and took off, quickly ‘rolling the Oats’, causing skipper Mark Richards to exclaim from the wheel of Wild Oats XI “She’s smoking – look at that thing go.”
As they raced down the harbour, Comanche, skippered by Ken Read, steadily widened the gap. In around five minutes they were rounding the first mark with Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI more than 30 seconds behind her. Then came Syd Fischer’s newly hulled Ragamuffin 100 and Anthony Bell’s Perpetual Loyal.
The sleigh ride was over. Down came the spinnakers, Wild Oats XI and Ragamuffin quickly reefed their giant mainsails, while Comanche just kept going as the frontrunners began to beat their way out to the seamark in a lumpy, uncomfortable sea that was fast being churned into full washing machine mode as the spectator boats cluttered around them.
Race Start COMANCHE, Sail n: 12358, Bow n: 58, Design: Verdier Yacht Design & Vplp, Owner: Jim Clark & Kristy Hinze-Clark, Skipper: Ken Read
With their sails hardened up, WildOats XI hung onto Comanche’s coattails as they clawed their way to the mark. Just ten minutes into the race, the American passed the yellow buoy. There are no records, but unofficially no boat has left Sydney Harbour more quickly in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 628 nautical mile race.
The two leading boats continued beating out to sea, as did the third placed Ragamuffin 100, but startlingly, Perpetual Loyal tacked around the mark and charged through the spectator fleet towards the cliffs at South Head, tacking again under the Macquarie Lighthouse to head offshore in slightly cleaner water as most of the spectator fleet followed Comanche and WildOats XI.
Next out to sea were the V70s Blackjack and Giacomo, already engaged in a fierce one on one duel that will not end until the reach Hobart, followed by Manouch Moshayedi’s Rio 100.
And behind them the remainder of this 117 strong fleet paraded between the Heads in a remarkably tight line, every single boat enjoying this amazingly swift start. Well placed were Ichi Ban, OneSails Racing and last year’s winner, Victoire. And one of the big unknown quantities in this race, the Botin 65 racer/cruiser Caro from the Cayman Islands has shown a very good turn of speed. Watch this space indeed.
Even Sean Langman’s 82 year old gaffer Maluka of Kermandie, the oldest and smallest boat in the fleet, had rounded the first mark inside 30 minutes. An unheard of time for the little 9 metre veteran that may, or then again may not, arrive in Hobart in time for New Year.
Sadly, not long after the start, two yachts were forced to retire: Tina of Melbourne with hull damage and Bear Necessity with a damaged rudder. Both are returning to Sydney.