American supermaxi Comanche performed the ultimate comeback to take line honours in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, some two days after she turned back to the start line, damaged and ready to withdraw.
The 100-footer crossed the finish line at Hobart’s Constitution Dock on Monday in an unofficial time of two days, eight hours and 58 minutes, outside her 2014 debut race time of two days, two hours and 52 minutes when she came second to defending champion, Wild Oats XI.
Clark’s Australian wife Kristy Hinze-Clark steered the boat across the finish line after making her maiden Sydney to Hobart race voyage and Comanche pulled into the dock to many cheers before the crew was showered in champagne and presented with a trophy.
After Wild Oats XI retired with sail damage on Saturday, nothing could hold back Comanche, not even her own damage.
During the first night at sea the super yacht hit something in the water and lost a dagger board which damaged the rudder after it broke off.
The crisis cost Comanche her 12-mile lead over Rambler as the crew at first considered retiring and even turned the boat around, before scrambling to make repairs.
The crew adapted, skipper Ken Read said. “We’ve learned how to sail the boat a little differently, without a dagger board [and] with only part of a rudder,” he told the Seven Network on Monday.
“Fortunately we’ve got an incredible crew on board this boat that figured out a couple of little tricks and kind of fixed the steering system and we figured out how to sail the boat a little better on starboard tack without a board, and off we go.”
It took 13 hours to hunt down Rambler which Comanche overtook on Sunday, before maintaining the lead all the way to Hobart.
In a race plagued by damage and withdrawals which saw the starting fleet of 108 reduced to 31, all three of the lead boats suffered.
Along with Comanche’s woes, Rambler and third-placed Australian Ragamuffin have both reported dagger board damage.
The latter boat performed dangerous on-the-run repairs enabling her to continue, skipper David Witt said.