Two more retire as storms hit Sydney to Hobart fleet

Not quite smooth sailing

The Sydney to Hobart fleet has been reduced to 98 boats after overall honours contender Maritimo 52 was one of two retirements on a stormy first night of racing.

Rival supermaxis Andoo Comanche and LawConnect remained neck-and-neck in the early hours of Wednesday morning as the fleet began to pass Eden on the NSW south coast.

As of 5:30 on Wednesday, the two favourites for line honours were some 35 miles ahead of the nearest challengers.

Race officials confirmed Maritimo had retired overnight with rigging damage, while 50-footer Sticky pulled out with electrical issues.

The retirements came after line honours contender SHK Scallywag was among the three boats to pull out on the evening of Boxing Day, having broken her bow sprit.

On the starting line, Maritimo had been one of eight TP52s, a highly competitive model on the international rating certificate — the handicap system used to determine the race’s overall winner.

Last year’s overall winner Celestial and Caro, the favourite among some bookmakers this year, are both TP52s as well.

Maritimo was skippered by two-time Hobart winner Michael Spies and boasted an experienced crew but underwent too much damage to continue.

She retired just south of Jervis Bay after breaking a fitting on her forestay and ripping her mainsail amid stormy conditions.

“We’re shattered, actually,” said crew member Peter Jones.

“We were trying to work a million ways around it, but at best we were going to be at 50 per cent.”

The damage came as stormy weather hit the fleet on the NSW south coast as the Bureau of Meteorology had predicted on Boxing Day.

Jones reported a south-westerly front had come through and that three hours of heavy rain had fallen, with winds reaching past 30 knots.

“There was as much lightning as we’d ever seen,” he said.



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