26 December 2017
LDV Comanche was first off the line at the start of the 2017 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, but light winds in Sydney Harbour, which are not ideal for world’s fastest super maxi, saw her overtaken by fellow 100 foot super maxi Black Jack and then, following an alleged near miss, LDV Comanche left the Harbour in third place.
But her raw power overnight and into day two, not her Harbour manoeuvres on Boxing Day, may win LDV Comanche the race.
“Ultimately it was exactly the start we wanted,” said Skipper and Owner Jim Cooney after the super maxi was clear of the harbour and powering down the NSW south coast. “We got out of the harbour cleanly and positioned ourselves perfectly for the real race, the run to Hobart.”
With 628 miles of racing ahead of her in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 73rd running of the race, LDV Comanche chose a safe, somewhat lonely start at the pin end of the line, unfavoured in the slight easterly breeze. Meanwhile, Black Jack timed her start perfectly, at full speed, when she crossed the line fourth from the pin in complete command.
As the two raced down the Harbour on starboard tack, Peter Harburg’s Black Jack had Jim Cooney’s LDV Comanche covered. For a tantalising moment it appeared the giant red and black hull of Comanche could muster enough speed to break the cover, but Black Jack soon established that in this breeze, she had more than enough boat speed to dominate.
Black Jack eventually rounded the first mark well ahead of Comanche, and the gap continued to widen as the two tacked towards the sea mark.
Behind them, Mark Richards was hauling Wild Oats XI back from an abysmal start. With a minute to go he had found himself boxed in, and the Oatley family’s boat looked downright slow when she did eventually cross the line below and astern of her little sister Wild Oats X.
It took the hundred footer five minutes to finally get past her 66 foot stablemate, with InfoTrack trailing them both – her preferred heavy breeze completely absent.
With his silver-grey thoroughbred at last running free, Richards delayed his turn towards the sea for ages, heading towards Manly and tacking far closer to North Head than his rivals. It worked. When Wild Oats XI crossed Comanche half way out Richards was ahead. Now it was Comanche’s turn to look sluggish.
At the sea mark Black Jack rolled out her big Code Zero and hugged the coast as she barrelled south through a wall of spectator craft. Eventually Wild Oats XI reached the mark in second place, but as her crew set their big head sail Richards opted to head further out to sea.
Third came LDV Comanche, which almost came to a halt as her giant genoa filled with water like a balloon, the crew struggling to haul the dead weight of the sail back on board. At her stern was a small red protest flag.
During Tuesday’s afternoon sked, LDV Comanche notified the Radio Relay Vessel of their intention to protest Wild Oats XI.
Next to the mark were Wild Oats X and InfoTrack, with Beau Geste trailing them further north and to seaward of the rhumbline.
With Black Jack close inshore and Oats and Comanche heading out, the first big tactical call has been made in what will be an absorbing line honours battle. Only one way will turn out to be the right way to go to set up for the transition to the nor-easter later this afternoon, but which one?
Black Jack has to make the most of this early stage of the race. These are her conditions. LDV Comanche and Wild Oats XI will get theirs later. Bradford and Black Jack’s owner, Peter Harburg, will be feeling the first hour went very well. At 4.15pm on Tuesday, Wild Oats XI’s navigator, Ian Burns, said Black Jack, LDV Comanche and themselves were in close contact.
Burns said further he did not believe an incident took place between Wild Oats XI and LDV Comanche and therefore Wild Oats XI did not need to do a 720 degree penalty turn.
But, most significantly, at 18.00 on Day One and five hours into the 2017 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, LDV Comanche was in the lead, ahead of Wild Oats XI, with Black Jack slipping back to third place, but still ahead of the four 100 foot maxi, Infotrack.