Perfect conditions, flat water and 15-20 knots of breeze saw a blistering start for all of the 117 boat fleet in the Rolex Sydney Hobart race

Perfect conditions, flat water and 15-20 knots of breeze saw a blistering start for all of the 117 boat fleet in the Rolex Sydney Hobart race but one boat in particular, the brand new 100ft Comanche, turned heads as she smoked out through the famous harbour.

Comanche 2

The rest of the fleet followed in what was believed to be the quickest start to the race for the fleet as a whole. But the perfect downwind conditions were short lived as the fleet turned the corner and headed out to sea to face the more challenging upwind conditions.

Syd hobart fleet

Shortly afterwards the tricky sea state and upwind conditions claimed four early casualties, a broken rudder, steering problems and sail damage being among the early problems.

Perpetual loyal 1

Pics courtesy Crosbie Lorimer

Here’s the official word from the race organisers:

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.

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.


A stiff southerly is testing the boats and sailors on the first afternoon of the 2014 Rolex Sydney Hobart and by late afternoon, four yachts had retired from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s annual race.

The first casualties of the race were Tina of Melbourne, forced out because of hull damage and Bear Necessity with a damaged rudder, just two hours into the race.

Roger Hickman, one of the doyens of this classic race, and skipper of Wild Rose, regarded the classic 46 year old S&S 37 Tina of Melbourne as the boat he and the other IOR war horses like Love and War and Landfall would have to beat, so such an early retirement is a great disappointment for Tina of Melbourne’s skipper, Andy Doolan.

“We fell off a large wave and noticed water coming in through a seam near the front of the boat. Two years of hard work down the drain,” Doolan said on docking at the CYCA this afternoon. “We were trucking along nicely, just settling into the race. The sea was very confused though and we fell off a wave.

“I guess we’ll have a shower and have the damage assessed,” Doolan added, searching for the positives. “We’ve got a chef and restaurateur on board – the catering is five-star. We had boeuf bourguignon for lunch and were looking forward to a chicken cassoulet for dinner – we’ve got lots of food to get through.”

Shortly after, Occasional Coarse Language Too retired with steering damage. Her skipper Warwick Sherman deserved better after his courageous race in 2012 while still undergoing chemo therapy for cancer. Yacht and crew are due to arrive back at the CYCA around 7.00pm this evening.

The fourth retirement is the Willyama, Richard Barron’s Beneteau 40, with a torn mainsail.

Peter Isler, on Manouch Moshayedi’s RIO 100 reports that conditions are certainly testing on the big American super maxi. “We are definitely learning our boat in these conditions. It’s very rough, sailing upwind in 25-27 knots of wind and pounding hard into short steep waves

“The yachts are all on port tack, but given our current angles everyone will have to be thinking about taking a short starboard tack as we get close on the beach,” he added. “It’s like riding a bucking bronco. These are boat breaking conditions, though we expect the wind to ease by midnight. Until then though we will hang on and keep pushing. ”

Brad Kellett on Brindabella concurred. “It’s pretty rough offshore, but we’re ploughing through and looking forward to better weather and the predicted sea breeze.”

At the front of the fleet Perpetual Loyal and Ragamuffin 100 stayed pretty close inshore while Comanche and Wild Oats XI ranged further out to sea. The latter have come back to the rhumbline and Perpetual Loyal and Ragamuffin 100 will soon have to tack out to sea a little themselves, but at this stage their decision to stay close to the coast seems to have paid off, with Perpetual Loyal leading the fleet.

Further back in the fleet the racing is very tight. Richard Grimes, navigator on the Ker 46 Patrice reports: “We got out through the Heads in good shape and stood out to sea for 45 minutes. Victoire was the first in the group to tack, then the rest followed.

“The wind is south-east at 20-25 knots on a 2 metre sea. We’ve got Ichi Ban around 3 miles in front, Cougar II around half a mile in front and Pretty Fly III astern. We’re sailing under full main – lots of boats have reefs in – but we’re comfortable and happy with our position.”

Not so comfortable for a crew member on Phillip King’s Last Tango, whose hernia has meant a pit stop at Botany to drop him off before the yacht resumes racing.