THE owners of Sydney to Hobart winner Comanche hadn't even planned to compete in this year's race.
The boat is owned by US billionaire Jim Clark and his Australian wife, former model Kristy Hinze-Clark, and Clark said the race wasn't on his schedule this year after finishing 49 minutes behind Wild Oats XI in second place at his first attempt in 2014.
But after realising their arch-rival Rambler 88, also owned in the US, had nominated, Clark agreed to have another shot after the urgings of his super-competitive wife.
The decision paid off in spades when Comanche reached Hobart's Constitution Dock late on Monday night to become the first American boat to win the race since the Larry Ellison-owned Sayonara took line honours in 1998.
It certainly hadn't all been plain sailing, however.
The severe conditions that struck the fleet on the first night down the New South Wales coast, forcing a host of retirements including Wild Oats XI which shredded a mainsail, also saw Comanche radio in that it was pulling out after damaging its rudder and a daggerboard.
But skipper Ken Read doesn't quit easily, and after making some running repairs, his boat caught up to and passed Rambler on the run across Bass Strait.
The fickle breezes around the south-east corner of Tasmania still had to be negotiated, however, and Rambler, which is superior to Comanche in light winds, regained the lead before Read decided to head much further east in the hope of finding some helpful air.
That decision also proved crucial, Comache taking back the lead while Rambler drifted, with the Aussie-owned Ragamuffin 100 closing in on the pair.
As it turned out, Comanche was able to splutter her way up the Derwent as the other boats were almost becalmed, Ragamuffin eventually edging ahead of Rambler to take second place for 88-year-old owner Syd Fisher, the oldest person to contest the 628 nautical mile race.
While Fisher said he was thrilled to end his 47th Sydney to Hobart with such a good result, Read was blown away by how difficult the race was.
"This is a hard race. You guys have a hard race here. That's one hard, hard body of water," he said.
"I've sailed around the world two and a half times and I thought I'd seen it all, but that is one really tough body of water.
"The people who have done this race something like 25 times, God bless 'em.
"Either they're the dumbest people on earth, or the hardest people on earth.
"Probably a combination of the two."
The French-designed and Swiss-owned Teasing Machine was on target to take handicap honours last yesterday.
- APN SPORTS BUREAU
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