The 2022 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has concluded with a line honours win for Andoo Comanche and a win on handicap for Celestial in wild and gruelling conditions for much of the fleet

The 77th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race started on 26 December, its traditional Boxing Day slot and once again hundreds of thousands of people crowded the shores of Sydney Harbour, or watched from the water as well as live on television and over the internet.

The departure from the familiar setting did not disappoint. 109 yachts, comprising professionals and Corinthians, and some 20 double handed crews, set off under blue skies and bright sunshine. A 10 – 15 knot north north-easterly meant a beat out to the heads, before spinnakers were hoisted and close to 48 hours of uninterrupted downwind sailing began.

Shortly after the congested start, where the four competing 100ft (30.5m) maxis traded tacks in their concerted effort to be first into open water, John Winning Jr’s Andoo Comanche struck a mark of the course. Recognising their error, the crew performed two 360 degree turns in quick succession to purge the infringement. Failure to do so could have led to a fatal penalty at the end of the race. The pre-race favourite needed to reset and re-focus.

The start of the 77th Rolex Sydney Hobart Race. Photo: Rolex

Once in the Tasman Sea, the crew of Andoo Comanche set to work reeling in the yachts ahead and establishing a small but vital lead over their closest pursuers. Winning Jr acknowledged the determination witnessed in the battle for line honours and the J.H. Illingworth Challenge Cup.

“It is an incredible ocean race, something quite special. Equal amounts of effort will have gone into all the yachts competing in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. The three other 100 footers especially kept us honest, and I would like to congratulate them for an amazing competition.”

Andoo Comanche completed the course in a time of one day 11 hours 56 minutes 48 seconds, two hours outside the race record established by the same boat in 2017.

The hurdle faced by Sam Haynes’ Celestial came a year earlier and was substantial. Turning the clock back 12 months, Haynes, Vice Commodore of the event organiser, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) and a passionate sailor, admitted to being crushed by finishing second overall after a rule infringement late in the 2021 race resulted in his team being demoted from top spot.

“After last year, I was ready to walk away from the sport. Talking to my family and key people on the team, I realised it was not the right way to go. I wanted to try again, to step up to the challenge.”

As the race unfolded it was clear no crew would have a straight-forward time. The initial downwind sleighride was brutal and tiring, boats racing at speed and on the edge, with race-ending damage a split second away. For the smaller entries, there was an additional, cruel twist as the wind turned on day three forcing them to beat upwind to the southernmost point of the course at Tasman Island, slowing down their progress and effectively removing any chance of overall victory on handicap.

Andoo Comanche on the way to a line honours win. Photo: Rolex

Onboard Celestial the mindset was singular, as Haynes explains: “We had done our homework. We had done a lot of training, so we could be absolutely confident in the boat and ourselves. At our final pre-race briefing I told the crew we are going to push as fast as we possibly can because we have to do that to beat the other boats.”

The approach was not without danger, particularly in the hours of darkness: “There is always an element of extreme risk in fast offshore racing at night. It can be quite beautiful, but the second night east of Tasmania was gnarly with a big sea state and gusts of 30 – 35 knots. The boat was waist deep in water, regularly diving into waves, violently shaking, but still being driven right on its limits.”

Celestial eventually crossed the finish line late in the morning of 28 December, establishing an unbeatable lead in the standings.

Fiercely challenging, the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race offers a huge sense of personal achievement to those that complete it. Winning the race on corrected time guarantees a place in sailing folklore. Open to all, only the most determined entrants can truly aspire to this pinnacle of achievements. For this edition, the last words rest with Sam Haynes:

“To win a race like this is a massive, life changing achievement. It is a very hard trophy to win. However good you are there are a lot of reasons why you might not succeed. To finally hold the Tattersall Cup means everything.”

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