Andoo Comanche skipper John Winning Jnr could not hide the pain of seeing his dream of a “swansong” victory on the boat slip away in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
This year’s race had added significance for Winning Jnr with his crew including his father John, sister Jamie, and close mates Peter and Nathan Dean, the sons of John Dean, one of six people to die in the 1998 Sydney Hobart who was also a friend of his father.
However, Winning Jnr had nothing but praise for Christian Beck and his crew for how they sailed LawConnect towards a sensational come-from-behind Line Honours victory today.
“I don’t like coming second. I don’t mind it sometimes, but certainly when you are the favourite it’s pretty painful,” said Winning Jnr from the boat at dockside in Hobart.
“We were the favourite because we’ve got an amazing boat that should have won the race.
“We’ve got an amazing crew. I know I beat myself up around not being able to deliver a win for those guys and my sister [Jamie] is included in that. But the other guys [on LawConnect] sailed their butts out. They sailed out of their skin. They left nothing on the table.
“We should have beaten them had we sailed as well as I know we can. I think our boat was definitely the better boat, as Christian sort of said in the past. I say that with a bigger compliment to them that they didn’t just beat us, but they beat us with an underdog boat.”
Andoo Comanche, the defending champion, went into the 628 nautical mile race organised by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) as the major favourite to cross the line first.
The 100-footer, that Winning Jnr was skippering for the last time in the race after chartering it for two years, looked set for back-to-back wins as it entered the Derwent River.
The two maxis had fought neck and neck for much of the race. Then, in the crossing of Storm Bay, Andoo Comanche moved away to a 2nm lead. But on the ever-tricky Derwent River, LawConnect fought back to catch them in the slight and fluky breeze.
In the last 1.5nm, the lead changed five times as the two maxis executed jibes to milk what wind there was. LawConnect managed to finally make the last move to win by 51 seconds.
In arguably the most exciting finish in years, LawConnect crossed the finish line in Hobart in first place at 08.03.58am and in the time of 1 day 19 hours 03 minutes 58 seconds.
Andoo Comanche crossed in 1 day 19 hours 04 minutes and 49 seconds for the second closest finish in race history, the closest being seven seconds between winners Condor and Apollo in 1982.
“Those guys deserve all the praise they get,” said Winning Jnr of the LawConnect crew. “They must have sailed so bloody well to be there with us, then to take us right to the finish.
Winning Jnr took some solace in the fact that the duel between LawConnect and Andoo Comanche was so dramatic. “It was one of the most epic finishes in probably any sailing race,” he said.
“Unfortunately, I’m on the wrong side of that Battle Royale, but it’s amazing for the sport.”
Winning Jnr said he is unlikely to return to the Sydney Hobart next year, even on another boat. “I’m not looking to do another Hobart next year. I want to do some other stuff,” he said.
But he admits he will miss Andoo Comanche, now that his charter of it is at its end. “We have put a lot of love into her. She’s given us so much in return,” he said. “The memories, we will cherish forever. I’ll let someone else have their own memories with it. Maybe we’ll cross paths at some point. Hopefully someone else is paying the bills and I can be crew.”
Written by Rupert Guinness | RSHYR Media
Internationally, the race will be available through YouTube on CYCATV or on Facebook Rolex Sydney Hobart page.
For the full list of entries and more information about the race, visit rolexsydneyhobart.com.