By Monte Bovill and James Dunlevie – ABC News
A yacht abandoned during the Sydney to Hobart yacht race has washed ashore on one of Tasmania’s most remote beaches after drifting for a week, with concerns for the area’s culture and environmental significance.
The crew of Huntress, a 12-metre cruiser, enjoyed “36 hours of absolute champagne sailing” during the 77th Sydney to Hobart race before conditions changed dramatically.
“We had 12 hours of very testing conditions on Tuesday night that unfortunately resulted in the loss of our rudder at 0700hrs Wednesday. While surfing a wave at 20 knots (boat speed), we heard a loud thud,” the crew wrote in an Instagram post.
“It became obvious that the rudder had sheared off when we saw it floating away in the distance.”
With some of the eight on board experiencing seasickness and authorities informing them a “tow would be too dangerous”, the “extremely difficult and heart-wrenching decision” was made to “leave Huntress floundering 80 nautical miles (148 kilometres) offshore”, the team posted on social media.
The crew were then taken aboard a police vessel and transferred to Flinders Island, where they said a salvage operation was “already being planned for her safe transfer to mainland Tasmania” on December 29.
Since then, Huntress has been drifting off Tasmania’s north-east coast without navigation lights or transmission of an Automatic Identification System (AIS) signal after the yacht’s batteries went flat.
It has now washed ashore on Christmas Beach on truwana/Cape Barren Island.
Marine and Safety Tasmania (MAST) first issued a warning to marine traffic on Tuesday, five days after the yacht was abandoned, alerting that Huntress was drifting 15 nautical miles off the Tasmanian mainland.
According to the MAST alert, an at-sea salvage attempt was due to take place — but before that could happen, the vessel had gone ashore.
In a now-deleted post, the boat’s owner said the team were “angry, devastated and at a complete loss as to how the hell it came to this, given she was floating around for a week now with ample opportunity to be towed to safety”.
Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania manager Rebecca Digney said there were serious concerns about the yacht breaking up.
“At the moment, the yacht appears to be intact, but we are concerned what should happen if that yacht were to break apart. It’s going to be hard to recover the vessel and keep it intact.”
She described Christmas Beach as a “very clean, pristine and remote place”.
“It’s an area frequented by the Aboriginal people that live on truwana/Cape Barren Island,” she said.
“The island is the only parcel of land in the whole of Tasmania to have a permanent, full-time Aboriginal population living on Aboriginal land.”
The area is only accessible by foot or by boat.
Salvage attempts will now be made at the weekend.
It is the second year Huntress has failed to finish the Sydney to Hobart.
In 2021, in its maiden race, Huntress retired from competition due to mainsail damage.
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