Comanche quickly made up for a tardy start to the Sydney to Hobart, powering her way to the front of the fleet after rival InfoTrack took the initial bragging rights by getting through Sydney Heads first on Thursday.
Supermaxi InfoTrack, which took line honours in 2016 as Perpetual LOYAL, got a flyer as the race started in winds of 15 to 18 knots. She led the fleet of 157 out of Sydney Harbour, followed by Scallywag and Wild Oats XI, with Black Jack and Comanche making the worst starts of the quintet of supermaxis.
Comanche, considered by many to be the line honours favourite, clearly started the slowest and lagged behind its big rivals in the first few minutes. But the two-time line honours winner flourished as she got into open water away from the large spectator fleet. Comanche headed out more to sea, while the other supermaxis opted to stay closer to shore.
After the first half hour she asserted herself at the front of the fleet, with skipper Jim Cooney having declared before the race he would go hard in the northerly breezes in the first few hours to establish a lead before the forecast light southerly change on Thursday evening.
It was the third time InfoTrack has passed through Sydney Heads leading the race, having achieved the feat under its previous name in 2015 and 2016. Owner Christian Beck had suggested his boat would probably need misfortune befalling the other four supermaxis for it to take line honours. However, with experienced sailors Chris Nicholson and Tony Mutter taking charge, his boat hit the start line with great momentum.
“In these conditions, we probably need a (Stephen) Bradbury moment to win but we could be right there if someone has a problem,” Beck said hours before the race. “I give us about a 20% chance of winning. Boats do break down, not that we hope that it happens to them, but for us to win against Comanche that’s needs to happen probably unless they make a mistake or we can choose a different route.”
Scallywag and Wild Oats XI also started well but the two boats almost came together a few minutes after the start. The last boat through the Heads was American cruiser Cailin Lomhara. The fleet for the 75th edition of the race was sent on its way by race stalwart Tony Cable, who fired the starting cannon, with no boat breaking early on any of the four start lines.