Skipper 1968 Sydney Hobart winner Koomooloo today had to abandon ship off NSW south coast 27/12/06

The skipper of the 1968 Sydney Hobart overall winner Ray White Koomooloo today stepped off the love of his life which was sinking off the NSW south coast after being holed during the Rolex Sydney Hobart.

A guttered Mike Freebairn, who was safely aboard the British yacht Adventure, also a competitor in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, with his crew after a lifeboat transfer from the sinking vessel, described the heart wrenching decision to step off the boat.

Commenting Freebairn said: “We did everything we could to save the boat?We are all pretty devastated. It’s been my life for ten years. We’ve restored every nut and bolt.”

In around 22 knots of south westerly breeze, Ray White Koomooloo fell off a backless wave in lumpy seas. Freebairn continued: “The water started coming in. We started ripping up the floor boards trying to find where the water was coming in. We couldn’t locate the problem. We started bailing for a while, then I decided for the safety of the crew that we’d better abandon? We thought the boat was pretty solid.

When Freebairn and his crew transferred to Adventure, Ray White Koomooloo was still floating but Mike wasn’t expecting the Kaufman 41 to remain afloat for much longer.

Freebairn praised the crew on Adventure for their assistance during the crew recovery. Adventure will not be penalised for assisting Ray White Koomooloo. When they reach Hobart they have the option of putting in a request for redress which will go to the International Jury to decide how much time to award.

At approximately 1300hours this afternoon the police launch Alert successfully picked up the eight crew from Ray White Koomooloo and they are now on route to pick up a crewmember of another former winner of this race, Graham Jackson’s Illusion.

Illusion was diverting to Eden to drop off the injured crew person, however, now the police launch is in the vicinity, instead they will collect the crewman with cracked ribs and deliver him and the Ray White Koomooloo crew to Eden.