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Battles of the super maxis comes to a close in the Rolex Sydney Hobart

by RSHYR Media 27 Dec 2019 22:35 PST 26 December 2019
The battle between the super maxis continued until the finish line in the 2019 Rolex Sydney Hobart. © Carlo Borlenghi / Rolex

It came down to Comanche and InfoTrack in the end, but Comanche was too good on the day, and although line honours was decided in her favour, a battle royale raged behind with the remaining three super maxis.

While the fans might have expected to see Peter Harburg's Monaco entry, Black Jack, cross the finish line in third place, it is not what they got. The one thing you can bank on in yachting is to expect the unexpected.

As spectators waited on the seawall near Hobart's Constitution Dock, two yachts loomed into view - but it was Wild Oats XI and SHK Scallywag 100, with Black Jack behind in the distance having led the other two around Tasman Island.

To the uninitiated, the Oatley family's Wild Oats XI looked to have a huge advantage over Seng Huang Lee's Hong Kong entry, SHK Scallywag, skippered by David Witt, as the two headed for the finish line. But cast your mind back to 2015 when Witt found himself in a similar situation (the boat was then named Ragamuffin 100) against George David's US canting maxi, Rambler.

With a slight advantage over Ragamuffin 100, Rambler tried to draw Witt in towards the shore where David and crew saw a little pressure, but Witt had other ideas. Rambler found herself at a disadvantage, while Witt, with nerves of steel, stayed on course and beat the Americans over the line.

And that's how it pretty much played out today - but with a different ending. Wild Oats XI headed in towards the shore, while Witt stayed on the opposing gybe. SHK Scallywag had better boat speed, but Wild Oats XI beat her to the finish by 38 seconds as spectators looked on in awe.

"The race was physically easy, but mentally tough," Witt conceded after docking.

"It was my 24th (Hobart) race with still no win. It's breaking my heart," Witt said after coming so close again.

"These were some of the best conditions we've had (compared to other years), but we still didn't win. I'm gutted we didn't place in the top three," Witt said with his usual honesty.

SHK Scallywag's crew sailed a good race, but as crew member Larry Jamieson explained, "We hit a shark this morning off the Tassie coast. We were running downwind when we heard a bang. We couldn't steer the boat so thought we had broken the rudder.

"There was a two and a half metre shark wrapped around the rudder, so we had a bit of drama getting the sails down and clearing the shark. He flipped away, but it cost us," ended Jamieson remarking on the level of competition between the super maxis, "It just keeps going up," he said.

On Black Jack, Harburg's long-term skipper, Mark Bradford, commented: "It was a pretty easy fast race. We got a little bit of everything.

"We're happy for Comanche," he said of Jim Cooney and Samantha Grant's victory. "And I have huge respect for Wild Oats," Bradford remarked of skipper Mark Richards' comeback from a 38-mile deficit on the other super maxis to finishing third over the line.

"It's becoming a downwind race, which is a funny concept," said Bradford, referring to the last few Rolex Sydney Hobarts which have had their share of good running and reaching conditions.

Black Jack has performed well this year, with line honours in the Brisbane Gladstone, Cabbage Tree Island Bird Island races. Their crew work looked slick in all three.

"We were our most prepared, but weren't rewarded for it," Bradford said.

For all information, please visit www.rolexsydneyhobart.com.

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