The bookies didn’t back LOYAL to win line honours in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, but the crew backed themselves in terms of maintaining their faith in a boat that was built to be the fastest super maxi in the world but that had never delivered, not as Speedboat nor Rambler nor Perpetual LOYAL.
Finally, the Juan Kouyoumdjian-design 100-footer made good. She won, and she won in record time, blitzing Wild Oats XI’s previous time for the 628 nautical mile race by just under five hours. That has done a lot to erase the memories of the previous two Hobart races when she had to retire.
“It defies a lot of the worries we had. It is one for the true believers,” Bell said on arriving in Hobart.
“We worked on this. So many people believed in this; we came back and had another go at it and it paid off.”
He didn’t intend competing in this race. Last year was to have been LOYAL’s last under Bell’s command but the crew decided collectively to try to make amends.
“We called last shots last year. We didn’t make it to Hobart so we thought we should come back and put it together again.”
They had a couple of things up their sleeves. They knew they could sail faster than expected in running conditions; they already knew they were a better heavy weather boat than Wild Oats, and they had prepared properly this time. Then they saw Wild Oats XI in strife on Tuesday morning when she was halted by a problem with the hydraulic ram that controls the canting keel.
“It was sad to see them break,” Bell said. “We saw it happen, we were less than a mile away. We saw the boat tilt right over and we saw them come to a sudden stop. Our first worry was that they may have lost a crew member overboard. We radioed them and told them we were prepared to stop the race and go over and help the guys.
“The fortunate thing was no one got hurt and we didn't have to stop sailing in the race.
“We thought we were a fair shot against them … but that’s racing,” Bell said.
There were some big issues on Perpetual LOYAL. Straight after the start its biggest headsail would not unfurl properly and was stuck, swinging in the breeze. A crewman was aloft for one and half hours fixing the problem. There were further problems with the sail, and then at midday on Tuesday, the mast started to move.
“We got the engineers up there and we got through that,” he said. “We had our fair share of problems: we just got over the top of them.
“Calmness and coolness on our boat was the thing that got us through. The most important part was that we had nothing to lose. We turned up. I don't think anyone expected us to do well in this race. The bookies certainly didn’t. We always thought we were.’
Bell will not return to the race with Perpetual LOYAL.
“With all my heart, no. This boat’s a great boat and it needs the next owner, someone to jump into it with passion and enthusiasm. It’s a boat that’s just broken a record.”
As far as his future was concerned, he said people would have to wait and see.
“Everything’s about evolution. Everything’s about the next thing. I’ve got some detailed plans on something new and hot that I am going to do in sailing.”
By Bruce Montgomery, RSHYR Media
Perpetual LOYAL smashes race record to take line honours in Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
Wednesday 28 December 2016, 3:00am
Anthony Bell has well and truly removed the monkey of the last two years from his back, smashing Wild Oats XI’s record of 2012 by four hours 51 minutes and 52 seconds and taking line honours for the second time in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s iconic Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
Perpetual LOYAL powered to the finish line, travelling at 20 knots as she cut a swathe through the spectator fleet. Her official finish time is 02.31.20am 28 December, 2016 in the time of one day 13 hours 31 minutes and 20 seconds – well ahead of the 1 day 18hrs 23mins 12secs set by Wild Oats XI.
Bell initially won line honours in 2011 with his first super maxi, Investec LOYAL, the first time the Sydney accountant had sailed the 628 nautical mile race. Then in 2013 he finished second to Wild Oats XI, but the last two years have been unkind.
Bell had purchased Speedboat/Rambler, purportedly the fastest racing super maxi on the planet, but the boat has failed to deliver. In the 2014 Rolex Sydney Hobart she retired with hull damage after hitting an unknown object, then in 2015, another retirement, with rudder damage early on.
This time, no such worries. Bell left behind the celebrities of previous years, replacing them with some of Comanche’s finest, along with his regular crew. And like last year, Perpetual LOYAL was first out of Sydney Heads and this time she kept going, sailing steadily in Wild Oats XI’s shadow until the leader retired when the hydraulic ram failed.
From there, Bell and his crew sailed steadily in ideal running and reaching conditions all the way to the finish line and into the history books.
Jim Delegat’s Volvo 70, Giacomo (New Zealand) or Seng Huang Lee’s super maxi Scallywag (HKG) are the next yachts due over the finish line at approximately 4am. Jim Cooney’s Volvo Open 70 Maserati, Karl Kwok's 80ft Beau Geste (NZL) Peter Harburg’s modified Volvo 70 Black Jack and Ludde Ingvall’s super maxi CQS are following. All these boats are currently inside of Wild Oats’ 2012 record.
Full Perpetual LOYAL story with quotes and finish and photos to follow.
By Di Pearson, RSHYR media