Peering in under the huge hull at the 20cm crack just back from leading edge at the top of the fin, Buckley, an engineer, and his boat captain Ross Field made the call that the boat is not fit to contest the Rolex Sydney Hobart.
“We’ve had a catastrophic failure and we won’t be doing the Hobart,” an obviously shaken Buckley told awaiting media. “We’ll go back to the drawing board and work out where the failure is. We’ll try again next year. We thought we were prepared this year, obviously this has let us down”.
It’s a huge blow to Buckley and his crew. Last year they were forced out of the race after being dismasted in the early hours of the first morning at sea. Since then they have spent almost 12 months preparing for a re-match, replacing their wingmast with a new fixed mast, among other modifications.
Just before the maxi was hauled from the water the weary Kiwi owner was still optimistic he’d be on the start line on Boxing Day. Now he has to wait another 12 months.
“We came here to run the race and win it,” Buckley had said prior to seeing
close up the extent of the damage.
The 11 man crew heard a loud bang yesterday morning and Field dived beneath the boat
to discover the crack, which is when they put out a PAN PAN distress signal.
As the boat motored to Sydney, escorted over the final 78 nautical miles by the Sydney Water Police vessel Launch Alert, there was a real danger of the keel falling off and the boat turning upside down.
“It was very close, we could have lost the boat quite easily,” said the gutted skipper. A keel will have to be built in Australia in order to get the boat back to Auckland.
With the dark horse Maximus out of the running, all attention is now focused on
the anticipated line honours battle between Wild Oats XI and City Index Leopard.
Once Maximus officially withdraws its entry, the Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet will stand at 82 following another withdrawal today, Bill Ratcliff’s Wistarie. Bill will instead join the crew of Andrew Dally's Bear Necessity for his 40th Rolex Sydney Hobart.