Edge of Seat Finish for Fifth Place Finish in Sydney Hobart

1200hrs (AEDT) | Wednesday 28 December

The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race was today treated to an edge of the seat battle for fifth place on line honours between two boats in the fleet – Willow and Stefan Racing.

Soon after dawn, the Derwent River was like glass when the overnight north-easterly suddenly stopped, but a north-westerly kicked in and increased with gusts of up to 45 knots.

A terrific finale then unravelled between the 70-footer Willow, co-owned by Jim Cooney and Samantha Grant and the 80-footer, Stefan Racing, skippered by Grant Wharington.

Stefan Racing looked set up to be the next boat to finish the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 628 nautical mile race, but in the final stretch, Willow passed her rival.

Willow finished fifth on line honours in 1 day 18 hours 39 minutes 52 seconds, just 1 minute and 10 seconds ahead of Stefan Racing, which finished in 1 day 18 hours 41 minutes 2 seconds.

The two boats were the first to finish after dawn. All four maxis in had already finished in blackness several hours earlier.

The John Winning Junior skippered 100-footer Andoo Comanche took line honours in 1 day 11 hours 56 minutes 18 seconds. Second, third and fourth places went to the three other maxis in the race, LawConnect, Black Jack and Hamilton Island Wild Oats in that order.

“That was the most pleasant Bass Straight crossing I have experienced,” said Cooney at the dock in Hobart.

“Then it all became unhinged a little bit around 10 o’clock last night with a very strong breeze.

“We were expecting that, we knew it was coming. We had everything already set up for it.

“So, it was it was a pretty hectic last eight to 10 hours. I could have done without the blasting out in the Derwent as usual. But that’s life finishing a race here in Hobart.”

Wharington was philosophical about Stefan Racing being beaten so close to the finish.

He cited the damage to an old jib as making a difference in winds that were stronger than it could handle.

“It really went really well except for Willow passing us. We were a little bit unlucky,” he said.

“We blew up a really old jib. It is what it is.

“We had a sail that was probably good for 20 knot winds and we had 33 knots or so at the finish there.

“It was a really good race very, very easy until about 11 o’clock last night. Then it got quite hard for a couple of hours and to the finish. Yes, a terrific race, really enjoyable.”

For rookie, Lisa Seiffert on Stefan Racing, the Sydney Hobart lived up to every expectation.

“The first day and a bit was pretty cruisy,” she said. “It was like, ‘this is reminding me of Brisbane to Hamilton. This doesn’t feel like what it’s meant to feel like.’

“Then yesterday afternoon, the wind started picking up and last night that’s when I was like, ‘Okay, now I’m in the Sydney Hobart.’ It felt like ‘that’s what it should be feeling like.

“It was fun. Yeah, I’m ready to come back and do it again. Fantastic.

“We had quite the dramatic finish. A sail ripped ripped.

“We were beating Willow and then Willow ended up beating us because we had a small hole that just tore the cell in half.

“And last night, we had quite a few life vest deploys because the waves are so big, smashing into everybody.

“It was pretty hectic, but I felt safe and it was exciting and that is part of as part of the race, right?

Filling out the top 10 on line honours behind Willow and Stefan Racing were a stable of Reichel/Pugh designs – Phillip Turner’s RP66, Alive, Anthony Johnston’s RP72, URM, Sean Langman’s RP69, Moneypenny and David Gotze’s RP63 No Limit, respectively.

For URM, it’s eight place finish was also good enough for the boat to break the conventionally ballasted record previously held by the TP52, Ichi Ban, by approximately four minutes.

Rupert Guinness/RSHYR Media

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