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Andoo Comanche wins Sydney-Hobart but misses race record

Australian supermaxi Andoo Comanche secured a fourth line honours victory in the gruelling Sydney-Hobart ocean race Wednesday, but fell short of setting a new course record.

The 100-foot yacht, skippered by John Winning Jnr, triumphed in a nail-biting finish in the early hours of Wednesday after leading the blue water classic for much of the race. 

It completed a quartet of line honours wins for the boat in the prestigious event since 2015 under a third different owner.

Andoo Comanche crossed with a time of one day, 11 hours, 56 minutes and 48 seconds — about 20 minutes in front of rival supermaxi Law Connect — and just under three hours short of its own record.

The current race record of one day, nine hours, 15 minutes and 24 seconds was set by the same Comanche boat under a different skipper in 2017.

Winning Jnr was part of the team that won the event in 2016, but said it was something special to skipper his own crew. 

“To do it in a campaign that I was part of putting together is really quite exceptional,” he told national broadcaster ABC.  

Last year’s defending champion Black Jack crossed third, followed by Wild Oats, which fell behind after tearing one of its sails earlier in the race.

The 109-strong racing fleet set off from a sun-splashed Sydney Harbour on Monday afternoon, charting their way through the 628-nautical mile course (1163km) to Hobart. 

Favourable weather early in the race raised the prospect of toppling that mark, but the strong winds faded as the boats barrelled towards the finish line in Hobart.

The Bass Strait, which separates Tasmania from the mainland, can unleash perilous conditions.

A deep depression proved catastrophic for the fleet in 1998, when six sailors were killed and 55 more were rescued after five boats sank.

Race officials on Tuesday evening said only three of the starting fleet had been forced to retire so far. 

One of them, 40-foot yacht Yeah Baby, withdrew less than four hours into the race after reportedly colliding with a massive sunfish.

Dozens of smaller yachts were still in the water Wednesday morning, competing for the handicap prize, which compensates for boat size. 

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