In a typical show of solidarity, Yuu Zoo skipper Ludde Ingvold began yesterday's media conference of maxi skippers by saying, “On behalf of all of us, I just want to say that our thoughts are with Grant Wharrington and his crew as they try to repair their boat in time for the start.”
On Saturday morning, Wharrington's hopes of victory in this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart came crashing down when the mast broke aboard his super maxi Etihad Stradium (formerly Skandia Wild Thing) off Gabo Island during the delivery voyage to Sydney.
Neville Chrichton, owner of one of the race favourites Alfa Romeo, has offered Wharrington his spare mast, but he rates Etihad Stadium's chances of making the start line as “1000 to 1”.
When asked about his gesture of offering a mast to a potential rival, Neville replied, “If we can get another boat on the start line, that's good. But it's a hell of a gamble for Wharro.”
The mast is currently in France, and it needs to be cut in half, air-freighted to Sydney, re-assembled and stepped in the boat. There is also the problem of compatibility, with the spreaders needing to be replaced to accommodate Etihad Stadium's chainplate positions.
Neville Chrichton has also offered Grant Wharrington Alfa's older sails, which will fit the new rig.
Even without Etihad Stadium, the race will still feature more xuper maxis (7) than have ever graced a single start line before.
Wild Oats skipper Mark Richards rates his chances of taking an historic fifth line honours as only about 30%. “Obviously we'll be watching Alfa because the two boats are almost identical, but any of five or six of us is capable of winning in the right conditions.”