BT winner's Hobart race

Former LG Flatron skipper Conrad Humphreys recounts his story from the Sydney-Hobart race
BT Global Challenge winner Conrad Humphreys sailed the Sydney-Hobart on a Iain Murray 41 footer. While around Sydney fires raged, offshore a powerful twister (waterspout) lay in wait for the fleet. This is his account of the tough ocean classic which saw 18 boats retire, yet more rudder damage to the Volvo 60s and a breathtaking view of the windless Derwent River which would have its final say over the finishing results: Eight months before the annual Boxing Day classic, I was having a beer with Will Oxley, skipper of Compaq during the BT Global Challenge stopover in Cape Town. We were talking about Bass Strait and he suggested that I come back to Sydney and sail the Hobart. It seemed an odd choice having witnessed the fury of the Strait in a 72 foot Challenge yacht - why go back and sail it in a 41 footer?! I've never been able to rationalise those sort of decisions. So when Will reminded me that I had agreed to sail - I got on a plane and flew out. This was certainly not the Sydney-Hobart experienced a few years ago. It was however not without drama and certainly the first night shock our Iain Murray 41 Zoe to the core as we beat into a difficult wind over tide set in 30 kts of breeze. That first night also exposed us to the most powerful waterspout I've seen. It loomed just less than a mile away, twisting and winding in complete fury. The smoke plume from the NSW fires stretched across the race track and just behind the trailing edge was a deepening thunderstorm. It was under this that the twister existed. Negotiating a twister can be tricky as the wind direction and strength close to the wall can be fairly erratic.