Australian 52-footer Balance wins overall Sydney-Hobart honours

Sydney: Australian 52-footer Balance was on Thursday crowned the overall winner of the Sydney to Hobart race, after overcoming the roughest conditions in years which forced dozens of yachts to retire.


Balance was awarded the Tattersall’s Cup — handicap honours for the vessel that performs best according to size — after main rival and one of the smallest competing boats, local 33-footer Quikpoint Azzurro, missed a pre-dawn arrival deadline.

American 100-footer supermaxi Comanche was first over the finish line — completing the 628-nautical-mile course in two days, eight hours, 58 minutes and 30 seconds to be the first victorious US entry since 1998.

Finishing second and third in the line honours was Ragamuffin 100 and another American entrant, Rambler.

Quikpoint Azzurro finished up in third place overall with a time of four days, 18 hours, 37 minutes and 59 seconds, behind French 35-footer Courrier Leon, which reached Hobart after four days, five hours, 28 minutes and 53 seconds.

Balance — which won the race in 2008 under the name Quest — had finished seventh in line honours with a time of three days, three hours, 50 minutes and 45 seconds.

Owner-skipper Paul Clitheroe, 60, said it was an “absolute honour” to win the blue water classic with his 10-year-old yacht, which has now taken out handicap honours in two out of five Sydney to Hobart attempts.

“I thought the little boat had beaten us, until the Derwent River decided otherwise,” the financial guru said.

– ‘Fun and cruel sport’ –

Some 108 yachts had left Sydney on Saturday, battling strong winds and punishing conditions as they headed towards Hobart’s Constitution Dock on the island state of Tasmania, with more than 30 boats unable to complete the race.

Owner-skipper of second-placed Courrier Leon, Gery Trentesaux, said he had bought a whole new sail wardrobe, including a heavy maxi spinnaker, as he knew the race conditions would be tough.

“We did this because I broke all the sails with the Beneteau 45 in the 2008 race,” he said.

“I also told the builder we had to do this race.

“They asked what it would take to psych me up to race. I said, ‘the Rolex Sydney Hobart’, so here we are, with Michel Quintin, who used to own Lady Courrier.”

Quikpoint Azzurro’s owner Shane Kearns told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation the lack of wind in the pond-like Derwent River in the final stretch of the race was “frustrating”.

“We really wanted to come first. But there was just no wind,” said Kearns, who had bought the boat on his credit card for Aus$23,000 (US$16,800).

“And then the cruellest cut of all at the end there, we lost second by a couple of minutes.

“So sailing can be a fun and cruel sport all in one go.”

The most prominent retirements were last year’s champion Wild Oats XI, an eight-time line honours winner, and supermaxi Perpetual Loyal.

Comanche was also damaged during the race, hitting an unidentified submerged object which broke one of her twin rudders and a daggerboard.