Cooney’s ‘Comanche’ conquers the waves in Sydney-Hobart race

Irish and Australian sailors share line and handicap honours following adjudication

 

Irish offshore sailing got a shot in the arm this week when both line and handicap honours fell to Irish-Australian sailors in the 73rd Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race, the southern hemisphere’s pre-eminent offshore race.

After a contest between Jim Cooney’s LDV Comanche and the Oatley family’s Wild Oats XI over the full 628 nautical miles of the Rolex Sydney-Hobart concluded on Wednesday in the Derwent river, the line honours title for first to finish was eventually decided on Thursday – but in the protest room.

Cooney, whose descendants hail from Balliver in Co Meath, says he took the protest on safety grounds rather than to win the race.

What could have proved a “dangerous” port-and-starboard incident between the two 100-footers, shortly after the start, was adjudged in favour of LDV Comanche.

Cooney’s helmsman for the victory run was America’s Cup winner Jimmy Spithill; the crew list read like a who’s-who of world yachting, and included Cork’s double Volvo Ocean Race winner Justin Slattery.

The initial provisional result was reversed to give Cooney a first line honours victory with his new boat in a record time of one day, nine hours, 15 minutes and 24 seconds, bettering by 4 hours, 15 minutes, 56 seconds the previous benchmark set in 2016.

Debut campaign

The Sydneysider described his debut campaign as “definitely an Irish-Australian one from bow to stern”.

“You’ve got me at the back and Justin at the front,” he told The Irish Times.

At the dockside prize-giving on Thursday in Hobart, Cooney and his crew were rewarded for their success with the JH Illingworth Trophy.

Cooney is planning a northern hemisphere campaign for Comanche in the 2019/2020 season and within that he does not rule out, but “cannot promise” entry into the Round Ireland race for the world’s largest and fastest super-maxi.

Meanwhile, fellow Sydney resident Gordon Maguire, originally of Howth Yacht Club, is set to be confirmed for his third overall handicap win in a boat half the size of Cooney’s.

Although most of the fleet still had to finish, as crew boss aboard Matt Allen’s new TP52 Ichi Ban, Maguire, a former Irish Laser Champion, was the leading TP52 from an early stage in the race to give them a clear margin of 21 minutes from another TP52, the much-fancied Quest (Paul Clitheroe and Bob Steel).

Other sailors of Irish interest who will come in within the top 10 overall in the 102-boat fleet include Dublin-born Noel Drennan aboard the American Volvo 70 Wizard and Carrickfergus navigator Ian Moore on the Italian Mascalzone Latino 32.

The results bring a successful close to the year for Irish offshore sailing that is already on a high at home with results closer to home. Cross-channel ISORA racing is boasting a record fleet on Dublin Bay and individual Irish competitors, such as the INSS sailing school scoring high in this year’s Fastnet race. Tom Dolan’s epic solo campaign in the Mini-Transat race achieved a top five placing. The new year will also herald two Irish Vendee Globe campaigns for the next race in 2020 as Annalise Murphy completes her Volvo Ocean Race campaign this summer.

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