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Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race: Black Jack’s best is yet to come

by Rupert Guinness, RSHYR Media 28 Dec 2018 05:00 PST From Dec 26

Black Jack skipper Mark Bradford stated the obvious when he proudly said, "The boat is getting closer," after the super-maxi followed up its third place on line honours in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race last year with a second place this morning.

But the Queenslander's words were expressed with his feel for Black Jack's potential in future editions of the Sydney Hobart in mind.

After a mighty four-way tussle, 14 minutes 25 seconds separated the first four line honours finishers – all of them super maxis - in which Wild Oats XI came out winner. But until 90 minutes before Wild Oats XI crossed the line at 8.07am, only four nautical miles separated them.

Wild Oats XI's winning time for the 628 nautical mile race was one day 19 hours 7 minutes 21 seconds. Second across the line was Peter Harburg's Black Jack in 1d 19h 35m 6s, followed by the Jim Cooney and Samantha Grant owned Comanche in 1d 19h 36m 9s and then InfoTrack, owned by Christian Beck, in 1d 19h 49m 31s.

It was a thrilling finale in which the only issue was the uncertainty that followed the concerns of Harburg that Wild Oats XI had its Automated Identification System (AIS) transponder off.

"We were very disadvantaged because they had their AIS switched off," Harburg said. "And the rules say it's got to be on all the time."

Harburg said he would not formally protest. And by 3.50pm, no protest had been lodged.

However, on the bright side for Black Jack, her performance was a step closer to last year when the she finished third. So did Bradford feel he got the most out of her and the crew? "We are certainly out of ideas at this point. We will look back and reflect on it," he said.

"Oats got a good shift at the end and got across and led into the Derwent (River). It could have been any one of the four of us.

"I'm sure it's good management on their part, and they should be congratulated for that. But the boats are so close now.

"It's going to come down to who races these things well. These boats are all very different boats. You saw in the last couple of days, everyone gets a turn (in the race lead)... It was always going to be a tough race and we got a bit of wind our way in the end."

Bradford believes Black Jack must find a way to handle variable wind.

"Yesterday was tough during the day because the fog rolled in," he said. "The whole time the wind was shifting. We chose to sail with Comanche in that patch of water. Oats always had a bit of leverage on us. Their shift sort of paid through right at Tasman Light there.

"InfoTrack had a good go at it as well. For a day of light air yesterday, they hung in pretty well which was surprising," Bradford said of the former Perpetual LOYAL which took line honours and broke the race record in 2016.

"They have improved a lot there. Similarly, on the first afternoon we were quite quick and didn't drop as we did last year. The boat is getting close. We just have to stay in touch so we can do that sort of stuff at the end. It's great to see the two skinny boats get up."

InfoTrack owner Christian Beck was happy to not be involved in controversy after finishing fourth – as he did last year, only to be relegated to 24th for not lodging a Declaration within six hours of his finish time.

Asked how he felt about his fourth place finish this year with what happened last year on mind, Beck said: "Probably very similar; we came in fourth then too.

"I didn't know about the 20 percent place penalty this time last year... it came later. This time we've already filled in Declaration."

Beck was all praise for his crew, saying: "They did an exceptionally good job. Firstly, nothing broke that we couldn't fix.

"But to be so close and second out the Heads - and to be second in certain parts of the race for this boat... they weren't the right conditions for it, or Comanche I suppose... It was, in my view, incredible.

"We focused a lot on crew this year and I think it's paid off."

For all information and to follow the race on tracker:

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