The 109-boat fleet took off for the 628-nautical mile journey at 1pm as the traditional starting cannon was fired by former winner Norm Hyett and it wasn’t long before the drama began to unfold in 15 knot winds. All four super maxis Wild Oats, Andoo Comanche, LawConnect and Black Jack – saw numerous close calls during a wild start to the 77th edition of the famed race, leaving commentators stunned.
Along with LawConnect, the $50million 100-foot super maxi was involved in numerous close calls in the opening 10 minutes where it appeared just an extra coat of paint would’ve meant the 60-tonne yachts would have collided. Andoo Comanche, in particular, was in the thick of the action as Channel 7’s expert commentator Jimmy Spittle warned ‘it’s going to be a real washing machine in Sydney Harbour’.
It led to some very audible obscenities on the Channel 7 broadcast, though to be fair some of them were rather creative. ‘This is a clusterf**k, you are asking for a collision’ one member of the Comanche team could be heard shouting across the harbour, while another yelled ‘look out for this f***ing idiot’ as they attempted to tack through the field.
The action didn’t end there, with skipper John Winning Jr raising the red protest flag as they steamed towards the heads. It was left to veteran skipper Mark Richards and iconic boat Wild Oats to nab MVP status for their exceptional sailing and tactics within the harbour; but, you guessed it, the success was not without drama.
It would appear the old adage of swearing like sailors is, in fact, reality. The pre-race favourite who is currently in the lead according to the live tracker was then penalised for hitting one of the marks, so the crew had to go around the mark twice. Despite not receiving an official penalty, Richards, who could be heard saying ‘I honestly think we’re in trouble’ decided to pre-emptively take a penalty turn to avoid any potential ramifications later in the race.
‘Enjoying the extremely Australian language from the SydneytoHobart yachts making it into the live broadcast,’ one wrote. ‘The swears off Comanche have made my day’, another laughed, while an amused fan noted ‘Seven’s Sydney to Hobart yacht race coverage has had a few f-bombs dropped and we’re only three minutes in’.
It was stressful times on-board as Richards cursed at one of his team to ‘shut up and just employ the f***ing jib’ as they attempted to make the turn. It led to many fans taking to social media to express their joy at the huge amount of unfiltered, and decidedly Aussie, language.
Spithill, who has won the America’s Cup in a storied career, said the carnage made for unmissable viewing, and commended the skippers for making pre-emptive decisions on penalties. ‘What a lot of action we saw,’ he said as the fleet ploughed past him in the background. ‘Really surprised the super maxis pushed it so hard. Two out of the four super maxis chose to do penalties, (but) I think it was a very wise decision.
Tens of thousands of fans littered the edge of the harbour and watched on the water in the first ‘normal’ race after three years of Covid-affected racing. Since beginning in 1945, the race has become one of the pinnacles of the sport, with sailors and spectators flocking to Sydney and the finish line in Hobart to take in the arduous race.
‘Clearly Andoo Comanche was in trouble a few times,’ said Spithill. In one of the highlights of the Sydney sporting calendar, fans yet again flocked to the harbour in brilliant sunshine to see the fleet take off towards Tasmania.