A hooter blast from the Australian Cruising Yacht Boat marked the start of the 71st Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race at exactly 13.00 local time (2.00 GMT and 3.00 in Italy). The 108-strong fleet got underway from three start-lines under cloudy skies and in a 15-knot north-easterly wind. All eager, of course, to tackle the tough 628-mile route separating the Australian port from the Tasman capital which will also see them traversing the infamous Bass Strait.
Maserati started from the first line alongside the rest of the big boats. The super maxis immediately took command of the race with Comanche out in front tailed by Wild Oats XI, Rambler, Ragamuffin 100 and Black Jack. However, the situation changed rapidly and at this point, a total of eight boats has retired because of accidents or breakages, including Comanche and Wild Oats XI. Having spent several hours lying ninth, Maserati has made up ground and is currently lying in fourth position behind Rambler, Ragamaffin 100 and Perpetual Loyal.
It proved something of an adventurous start for Maserati, however. Immediately after the hooter, the Italian VOR 70 became ensnared with three of the buoys marking off the spectator boat area. The crew had to halt the boat to deal with the problem, losing precious time in the process as first Carlos Hernandez and then Sam Goodchild worked their way along the hull to cut the lines entangled with the keel.
Three boats ended up retiring because of incidents at the start: Chinese craft Ark23, Cougar II from Tasmania and British entry, Lupa of London.
Four hours into the race, Giovanni Soldini had this to say: “The start was good but very dangerous with a very narrow channel to tack up. There was very little space between the sandbanks and the spectators. As we were starting, we heard an awful crash to leeward: two boats had collided. At the end of the channel, we were just a few metres from Black Jack and held the tack to the last. But we ended up in the spectator fleet and had to tack around one of the buoys that delimit it.
We’d already done that on our training days but today the keel became ensnared with a line attaching the buoy to its neighbour and we soon realised we were dragging three buoys behind us. We tried to free ourselves by backing up in the middle of the oncoming fleet but eventually we positioned ourselves to winward of everyone and with our bow to the wind, we dropped Carlos over the side. He managed to free up just one of the buoys. In the end, Sam jumped in with a knife and cut whatever he could. We’re now flying the spi and the full main in a wind that’s varying between 19 and 26 knots. Black Jack is a bit faster than we are. Her bowsprit is two metres longer than ours so that could be why.
I only hope that there isn’t still a bit of line tangled in the keel. We’re expecting the front in the next few hours”.
Skipper Giovanni Soldini is flanked aboard Maserati by a highly experienced, competitive international crew: Italians Guido Broggi, Corrado Rossignoli, Matteo Ivaldi, Francesco Malingri and Carlo Castellano; Spaniards Carlos Hernandez and Oliver Herrera; Pierre Casiraghi of Monaco; Brit Sam Goodchild; Australians Elizabeth “Liz” Wardley, Drew Mervyn Carruthers, Trevor Brown and journalist and “special guest” Nick Vindin.