In the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2013, when splinters of carbon exploded from Black Jack’s mainsail in gale force winds you would have thought the Queensland crew had literally blown their chances.
Astonishingly, the despondent team fought back to win one of the closest private races within the race, between the two Volvo 70s in the race, Black Jack and Giacomo, and the 80-footer closely based on the Volvo 70 design, Beau Geste.
In a finish more common in a regatta around the buoys than a 628 nautical mile ocean race, the three tacked within shouting distance of one another up the Derwent River.
In the end, Black Jack won, finishing fourth across the line, just over one minute ahead of Beau Geste, and two minutes ahead of her old foe Giacomo, which had led her for much of the race.
'When it (the mainsail) broke, quite a few of us gave up, I’ll be honest,' skipper Mark Bradford said of the moment when main blew out, about 30nm from Tasman light.
'Peter Elkington put up a fractional zero, I guess he wanted to get to the bar quickly, and push ahead.
'But then we got lucky when we got to Tasman Light, everyone else was in a world of hurt and we were already set up for the gusts.'
The two Volvo Open 70s and the 80-footer Beau Geste, which were close throughout the race, traded tacks up the River Derwent under darkness, with nothing but near identical navigation lights to hazard a guess at who was who.
For the skippers of the 70s there was an old axe to grind, with the two yachts facing off across 32,000 nautical miles during the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race; Giacomo won as Groupama 4, while Black Jack finished fourth as Telefonica after winning the first three legs.
There were also major bragging rights up for grabs if they could out-race Karl Kwok’s new Beau Geste, which was created by designer Marcelo Botin, and aimed at being the bigger and better generation.
Giacomo trimmer Phil Robinson said there were times when the crew had eyes only for Black Jack.
'We set out to beat the other 70 on the line right from the start,' he said. 'We crossed right behind them two or three miles from the finish, the rivalry was strong right from the start to the finish.'
For Queenslander Bradford, edging ahead of Beau Geste (from Hong Kong), Giacomo (from New Zealand) and nipping at the heels of the 100-footers was an incredible outcome in a race that he’d earlier ruled-out.
'For us, we’re claiming it as a victory,’’ Bradford said. 'To come fourth from where we were, when we thought it was pretty much all over, is just great.
'There’s more to come out of these 70 footers, and while Ricko (Mark Richards) did really well this year, in some of the races ahead you’ll see the smaller boats do well.'
by Danielle McKay
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10:30 AM Sun 29 Dec 2013GMT
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2013 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
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