Clear Skies and Near Collisions

A surprise reversal results in a win at the Rolex Sydney Hobart.

LDV Comanche is given line honors for the Sydney Hobart, while the overall winner is Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban.

The winner for the 2017 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht race was decided on Thursday, December 28, but the move that settled who would be winner was actually executed right at the beginning on December 26, two days earlier. And it wasn’t good news for the yacht that made that move.

The Rolex Sydney Hobart is an intense race among craft of many different types and handicaps, and the competition is fierce. In this case, a five-man international jury of judges ruled that a line had been crossed.

While the two craft were still within Sydney Harbor at the start of the race, the yacht Wild Oats XI tacked nearly on top of rival yacht LDV Comanche, resulting in a near-collision of the two super-maxi yachts. Comanche protested immediately, and at the end of the race and a three-hour deliberation, the jury ruled in Comanche’s favor.

As a result, Wild Oats XI had a penalty hour added to their official time. This handed the line honors to LDV Comanche, who crossed the line 27 minutes behind them.

For this race, the fastest sailing craft can finish it in two days, whereas the other, slower ships might not come in until three days later. The Sydney Hobart Race is run on handicap, with slower boats given a smaller handicap. This means that every craft still has to race their utmost; the slower vessels still have to race as fast as they can. It also means that you don’t necessarily know the winner until after the last yacht has come in.

There may be (and usually are) two winners, with the Line Honors given to the yacht that first crosses the finish line, and Overall Winner awarded after final handicaps have been factored in. In this case, the Overall winner was Matt Allen’s new TP52 Ichi Ban. Allen is the president of Australian Sailing, and he was a happy man. He called this year’s Sydney Hobart “the best sailing conditions I have ever seen.”

“It was an amazingly quick race. It is incredible that you could do it this fast in a 52-footer. It was some of the most exhilarating sailing I have ever done… This is my 28th race and I have never seen it this good.” We’re sure he was talking about the amazing weather, although no doubt Matt Allen had plenty of other reasons to see sunny skies right now.