Adventure, the yacht that diverted to rescue the crew of Ray White Koomooloo, has arrived in Hobart.
The big steel boat, a former BT Challenge yacht sailed by members of the British Army Royal Signal Corps, crossed the finish line a little after 1pm today, four days and six minutes after crossing the start line in Sydney.
Her skipper, Major Charles Roberts, says that he and his crew have had the race of their lives, made even more memorable by their dramatic rescue of Koomooloo’s crew after the classic wooden yacht split open after falling off a big wave on Wednesday morning.
“We heard the distress call and as soon as we worked out we were close the race was completely forgotten,” Roberts said.
“We were about 8 miles away (from Koomooloo). At the time we were close hauled but as soon as we pulled away the boat shot up to 13 knots.”
It took about 40 minutes for Adventure to reach Ray White Koomooloo. All that time they maintained radio contact, though at one stage the VHF on the stricken yacht packed up and they had to rely on a hand held radio.
“We hoped they could hear us but we couldn’t hear them,” Roberts recalled, “so we kept barking instructions down the radio hoping they could hear them, and they did.”
When they got to the scene they found Koomooloo running downwind in a three to four metre swell with breaking seas.
“She was very low in the water, very sluggish, doing about two knots,” said Roberts.
“We would have asked them to heave-to but in doing so we think they would have tipped the boat over, which would have scuttled her straight away.
“We held station 50 or so metres away. One thing I was worried about was that they were going very slowly and, at two knots in those conditions, Adventure loses her steering.”
Roberts was worried that if his 50 tonne steel yacht hit Koomooloo she would have caused even more damage to the wooden boat.
Eventually Koomooloo’s crew decided to abandon their beloved boat. With the stricken yacht still flying her mainsail and the boom out over one side, Richards realised that a boat to boat transfer was too dangerous. Koomooloo’s crew transferred to her liferaft and then onto the British yacht.
“Adventure is a big steel boat,” said Roberts.
“We were in rough seas. We were in the right place at the right time but I guess we also had the right boat. Luck comes into sailing quite a lot” is how Roberts puts it.
After transferring Koomooloo’s crew to the police launch Alert a few hours later, Adventure turned south again and resumed racing.
“Doing this race has been the best experience of my life,” says Roberts.
“I did the Fastnet last year but I felt very cheated because there was no wind.
“This race has been a mixture - we’ve had strong wind, we’ve had almost no wind, but the whole excitement behind the event has made it special.”
There are 13 boats still to finish the 2006 Rolex Sydney Hobart with the last boat, David Kent’s Gillawa set for a hat trick of wooden spoon finishes, due in 2.25pm tomorrow afternoon, 31 December. David Kent’s pre-race plan was to finish before New Year’s Eve and he looks set to realise that ambition.