Stuart Thwaites describes what happened to his 100 footer and further details on the stricken Skandia

Fifty-three yachts have now retired from the Sydney Hobart Yacht race after a gale swept through the fleet. Among the most recent retirements is Syd Fischer who was sailing his 35th Hobart race when his Farr 50 was dismasted east of Flinders Island.

But of the many retirements in the race, the most surprising and indeed dramatic have been among the biggest boats in the fleet. First came the news that the crew of Skandia had taken to the liferafts after the canting keel mechanism had failed. Contrary to early reports that suggested that the boat had sunk, Skandia remains afloat and is expected to be taken under tow to a safe port.

Meanwhile Stuart Thwaites has been describing the problems that he and his crew experienced aboard his 100ft supermaxi Konica Minolta.

Quoted on the official race web site Thwaites said, “Just before 6.00am we barrelled off the top of a ‘gi-normous’ wave and crashed down the other side. I was below deck when it happened. I heard the wave then I heard the foam crushing. It was all hands on deck. The helmsman was keeping the boat under control and trying to slow it down. This wave was twice as big as any others we’ve seen during this race. It was a pretty hairy night overall.”

Damage to the cabin top between the mast and the canting keel sleeve suggested that there was a real possibility of the boat breaking its back in the big seas so the decision was made to retire from the race and nurse the boat to a safe haven.

“It was a hard decision,” Thwaites said. “We agonised over it, but the consensus was that it was dangerous (to continue).”

“This race was like a wrap up of the last four. Water spouts, whales, sunfish, two-inch deep hail on the deck and sunny skies and fast downwind sailing, all in one race.”

But while this year will be a major disappointment for the fifty odd entrants who have been forced to retire there’s clearly relief that with gale conditions forecasted before the race had even started, the event didn’t experience the same carnage as in 1998.

Meanwhile, at the time of writing Ludde Ingvall’s brand new 90ft Nicorette was barrelling towards the finish to take line honours.

To see the current standings along with full details of retirements Click here