Top 4 moments from the 2015 Sydney Hobart race

Comanche takes extraordinary line honours win

Picture courtesy of Rolex/Steffano Gattini - Rolex Sydney Hobart -

The 628-nautical mile race from Sydney to Hobart is one of the most famous ocean sailing races in the world. There has been plenty of drama over the 70 year history of the race, and the 71st edition was no different. Here are the four main talking points from the race.

_Comanche _came a respectable second in the 2014 Sydney Hobart after travelling straight from  Hodgdon to take part in the race. The radical 30.45 metre supermaxi sailing yacht was hoping to go one better in the 2015 edition of the race and she got off to a flying start. As Comanche turned out of Sydney Harbour she pulled into a sizeable lead, charging south at over 20 knots.

However it was not all plain sailing. On the first night disaster struck when Comanche hit something and destroyed one of her daggerboards. In an effort to stop the flailing foil from punching a hole in the hull, the crew cut it free, but it struck the rudder on the way through and damaged the steering system.

It seemed that all of the hard work and expectation from owners Jim and Kristy Clark and their crew was to come to nothing. Skipper Ken Read assumed the worst and actually retired the yacht, before some of his experienced crew brought out the tools and managed to patch up the damage.

From thinking they were out of the race, they suddenly realised they actually had a chance of winning. They managed to build up a lead and then made it up the river Derwent before the wind died, as it often does overnight in Hobart. They crossed the line to take the win with a time of 2 days, 8 hours, 58 minutes and 30 seconds.

The words of Comanche’s skipper Ken Read really summed up the race when he said “this is a hard race. I have sailed around the world two and a half times and I thought I had seen it all but this is one hard body of water.”

Super maxis in dramatic match race for second place

Picture courtesy of Rolex/Kurt Arrigo - Rolex Sydney Hobart -

Almost 11 hours later the two super maxis Ragamuffin 100 and Rambler finished just four minutes apart. The racing superyachts created quite a spectacle in the morning light as they match raced each other up the river Derwent in very light winds.

The 30.48 metre Ragamuffin 100 managed to sneak over the line ahead of 27 metre Rambler after deciding not to follow the American boat towards the shoreline.

If it weren’t for them experiencing problems of their own, both yachts may have had a chance of taking on Comanche.

Rambler had overtaken Comanche after she suffered damage, but ran into bad luck of her own as she also struck something and damaged her daggerboard. This allowed Comanche to retake the lead and slowly pull away. Rambler then missed the wind on the third evening and the crew suddenly found they had Ragamuffin 100 for company.

Ragamuffin 100 virtually capsized on the first night. They lost all of their electronics on day two and then they had to swerve and dodge two 25-foot whales. Life didn’t get any easier as they too suffered a broken daggerboard and lost ground on the two leaders. However a fortunate wind brought Rambler back into their grasp and they seized the opportunity during a tight duel to the finish.

Race favourite Wild Oats XI retires with ripped mainsail

Picture courtesy of Rolex/Steffano Gattini - Rolex Sydney Hobart -

With eight line honours wins under her belt, 30.48 metre Wild Oats XI is the local hero on the start line of the Sydney Hobart. She was the defending champion and in 2012 set the race’s fastest time. Wild Oats XI was fresh from an extensive refit and full of confidence to take on Comanche and the other supermaxis.

The yachts set off from Sydney Harbour on the afternoon of December 26 in perfect sailing conditions. In the middle of the night a southerly buster came out of nowhere and a team spokesman said Wild Oats XI’s mainsail was split in half by gusts up to 44 knots. The damage was un-repairable and the super maxi was forced to retire.

When they were back in Sydney, skipper Mark Richards expressed his disappointment when he spoke to local news: “a few things went wrong for us, when that happens it’s a snowball effect. We got the mainsail down, back under control and we had a look at the sail and it was shredded. Everyone knew straight away that it was over.”

Over 30 retirements as weather causes havoc though the fleet

Picture courtesy of Rolex/Studio Borlenghi/Steffano Gattini - Rolex Sydney Hobart -

It wasn’t just the big boats who struggled in the conditions as terrifying accounts were reported all the way down the fleet.  Race organisers described the conditions as “really nasty” as the feared southerly buster hit the fleet overnight.

These weather conditions are what gives the race such a name. The strong southerly winds come out of nowhere: one minute the yachts are sailing smoothly along downwind and then the wind hits from the south with no warning.

Crews limped back to Sydney with torn sails, broken masts and damaged steering as the weather took its toll on the fleet. It was a credit to the boats and their crews that less than a third of the fleet was forced to retire, despite the worst conditions in over a decade.

The big boats were the first to bear the brunt of the 180-degree wind shift and Wild Oats XI was joined in retirement by Perpetual Loyal. The 30.48 metre Cookson yacht had several celebrities on board.

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