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Comanche saved from retiring early by Coast man

Comanche overcame the odds to take line honours at the Sydney to Hobart yacht race thanks to local Casey Smith.
Comanche overcame the odds to take line honours at the Sydney to Hobart yacht race thanks to local Casey Smith. Rob Griffith

MOOLOOLABA'S "McGyver" has earned well deserved praise from Comanche skipper Ken Read for saving the yacht from early retirement during the Sydney to Hobart.

Casey Smith plied his trade sailing up and down the Coast before moving to America where he became Comanche's boat captain.

The then race leader suffered brutal damage, initially retiring the 100ft yacht before Smith turned things around.

But Smith said there was a period when he didn't know whether the boat was salvageable when it lost its steering.

"I asked Ken to check if we still had a rudder - he said, 'yes, we've got a rudder, but it's a little damaged'," Smith said.

"When I went to inspect it, the rudder was facing the wrong way … we had to turn the boat around and just go with the wind to figure out if it was fixable.

"I wanted steering regardless of if we were pulling out of the race.

"Ken kept checking and asking what I thought and I just said I was working on a solution and it's going to be okay."

This was Smith's 11th Sydney to Hobart and was determined not to give up after narrowly losing to Wild Oates last year.

Comanche recovered from its injuries and won the race comfortably, but not without further hiccups.

"In the Hobart race you never think you're going to win until you cross the line and when you get around

40mile mark, that's the most nervous," Smith said.

"When we were coming into the finish line we got the calm for a few minutes and we were thinking 'no, don't do it to us'.

"It was pretty tense, everyone was freaking out about getting shut down in the river."

Smith's celebrations as boat captain will be short-lived as he readies Comanche for its return to American, before racing in the Caribbean 600 in February.

"My celebration was just going to bed," Smith joked.

"I enjoyed the hotel room, by myself with the curtains closed."

Smith is just looking forward to a surf.

Topics:  editors picks sydney to hobart yacht race


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