same old?

You might think that four 100-foot supermaxis duking it out around the buoys on Sydney Harbour would be a riveting spectacle but this year’s Big Boat Challenge was disappointingly dull. Grey sky, grey water, grey boats, grey sails. And anyone looking for an indication of relative form before the Sydney-Hobart line honours battle that’s now just a fortnight away was left pondering the elephant in the room: Comanche didn’t bother to show up.

Instead, it was the 2005 Reichel-Pugh Wild Oats XI that yet again led this annual parade up and down the Harbour, finishing 1’15” ahead of near-sistership Black Jack (formerly Europa, formerly Alfa Romeo). Third – a full 10 minutes behind – was InfoTrack (formerly Loyal, formerly Rambler 100, formerly Speedboat). But they were lucky to pass Scallywag on the final reach to the line after the Hong Kong boat (formerly Maximus, formerly Loyal, formerly Ragamuffin) suffered a furler jam that prevented them flying their spinnaker.

The all-female crew on 66-foot Wild Oats X put in a strong performance that silenced the dockside doubters. But all the serious chat was about Comanche. Did they squib a fair fight with arch-rivals WOXI or was this just a cool tactical ploy by owner/skipper Jim Cooney? They have done plenty of hard sea miles of late (winning three of their last four starts), and certainly don’t need the practice. A more likely explanation for their absence is that Comanche is slow in light air and flat water and simply didn’t want to risk handing the Oats camp a psychological advantage before the Hobart start on Boxing Day. The real contest is yet to begin.

– Anarchist David