Andoo Comanche takes early lead in Sydney to Hobart

Andoo Comanche has edged into the lead as the Sydney to Hobart contestants race south.

Andoo Comanche has edged into the lead as the Sydney to Hobart contestants race south. Photo: AFP/Getty

Line honours favourite Andoo Comanche has taken the lead in the Sydney to Hobart after a dramatic start to the revered race.

Off the coast of Port Kembla, south of Wollongong, Comanche passed last year’s runner-up and fellow 100-foot supermaxi LawConnect, which had taken an early lead out of the Sydney Heads.

Comanche, the 2022 line honours winner, was travelling 28 miles off the coast when she overtook LawConnect roughly three-and-a-half hours into the race.

LawConnect remained in hot pursuit, travelling at roughly 19 knots in north-easterly winds.

The two leaders have opened up a gap on third-placed supermaxi SHK Scallywag, which was about four miles behind Comanche when she passed LawConnect.

In-form 72-footer URM Group, along with Moneypenny and 2018 overall winner Alive – all contenders for handicap honours – appeared best placed of the smaller boats.

Four hours into the race, the fleet remained at 103 boats – the same number that crossed the start line in Sydney Harbour.

Scallywag had earlier completed a 720-degree penalty turn in a bid to avoid a possible time sanction.

Accusing Scallywag of tacking too close, Comanche’s crew could be heard on broadcast coverage yelling to their rivals before formally flying a red protest flag.

The boats appeared to come within metres of each other.

The fact the incident had taken place in Sydney Harbour meant Scallywag had only a limited distance in which to complete the penalty turns, or risk receiving a time sanction on arrival in Hobart.

In 2017, Wild Oats XI opted not to respond to a protest from Comanche early in the race and a subsequent one-hour time penalty cost her a line honours victory.

Race officials confirmed Scallywag completed the turn off the coast of Bondi Beach.

Last year’s runner-up LawConnect was fastest out of the gate.

But when a furling line snapped after she passed the first marker out of the Sydney Heads, she turned towards the spectator fleet in an attempt to correct the issue.

She made the best of a change in the wind to pass the heads first. The furling line issue has since been fixed.

The fleet is expected to encounter stormy conditions south of Jervis Bay on the New South Wales south coast.

Sudden and erratic wind changes, hail, rain and reduced visibility are all on the cards across the first two days of racing.

Easterly winds as strong as 35 knots are forecast for the far south coast of NSW on the night of Boxing Day and could impact the bigger boats in the fleet.

Winds are forecast to remain strong across the Bass Strait and south-east Tasmania on the morning of December 28, with storms a chance to continue affecting smaller boats.


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