As the leading yachts reach the halfway mark of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, the US supermaxi Comanche has made, arguably, the greatest comeback since Lazarus.
Comanche has closed on race leader Rambler, also from the US, and resumed the lead in the race for line honours.
Comanche was in deep trouble off the NSW south coast after midnight, when it appeared she would have to withdraw completely after, as skipper Ken Read put it, she “probably hit something”. That “something” all but wiped out a rudder and daggerboard on one side of the boat (she has a rudder and daggerboard on each side).
But in the spirit of its pursuit of this Holy Grail of a Rolex Sydney Hobart line honours victory, Read chose to sail on, albeit with fewer appendages: to continue into Bass Strait and chase down Rambler. It took 13 hours.
“We decided to punch on through. We think we can get to Hobart safely,” Read said. “I don’t care if we limp over the line. We are going to finish this damned race.”
And finish it in style, if she can.
While Comanche is back in the lead, just two nautical miles separates the two boats, and the southerly buster, which has taken out more than 20 per cent of the fleet, is expected to abate over the next 48 hours. On paper, the much lighter conditions expected in the bottom half of Bass Strait and along the Tasmanian coast later this afternoon and tonight favour the less beamy Rambler. So a fascinating duel could develop off Tasmania tonight.
Another great duel is taking place 30 miles astern between Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin 100 and Giovanni Soldini’s smaller Volvo 70 Maserati. They are separated by three miles after Soldini took a wide arc around the troubled fleet off the NSW south coast.
The morning has seen a steady stream of retirements from the race, many with rudder and mainsail damage. They include the maxis Wild Oats XI, Perpetual Loyal, Brindabella and the 2013 overall winner Victoire.
At 1330, there had been 23 retirements. They include another international casualty, Haspa Hamburg and her eager young German crew.
By Bruce Montgomery, RSHYR media