Celestial celebrates overall Syd-Hob win

December 29, 2022 06:48 PM AEDT | By AAPNEWS
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Celestial skipper Sam Haynes has toasted an emotional Sydney to Hobart handicap triumph, having revealed he almost quit sailing after a time penalty cost him top spot last year.

The NSW yacht was crowned overall winner on Thursday evening, some 30 hours after crossing the finish line in the box seat to claim the Tattersall Cup.

It was an agonising wait for Haynes and crew, with the result not confirmed until after a redress hearing for another yacht that received a time boost for assisting a fellow competitor.

But there was no repeat of 2021, when Celestial lost first place to Ichi Ban after being penalised 40 minutes for breaching race rules.

"We are so ecstatic. It's just incredible the feeling in the team," Haynes told AAP after his maiden win as skipper.

"Last year hurt and we're now back vindicated in some way. We're the fastest boat again.

"When we got the official call … it was just a moment of absolute happiness and joy."

Celestial was in a fierce battle for overall honours with other 52-footers Gweilo, Caro and Warrior Won in a handicap field Haynes described as the best in his memory.

Haynes, who has sailed 11 Sydney to Hobart races, said the four yachts were within four nautical miles of each other crossing Bass Strait. 

"We were together all the way through. Tactically it was a very interesting race," he said.

Despite a rollercoaster of emotions across two years, Haynes said Celestial would aim to go back-to-back in 2023.

"It's part of your DNA. You just want to keep on doing it. We'll be back for sure," he said.

"There was one point where I was ready to walk away from the sport, but I really enjoy sailing.

"We decided we were going to focus on this race and do as well as we can.

"It took us a long a time time to get over that. But in the end, here we are." 

Celestial had to contend with a break to the main sail on the first night and a tough final third of the race in strong winds and rough seas.

Haynes said a crucial moment occurred near the start when the yacht got a little more open water and current than rivals.

The remaining members of the fleet have been gradually arriving in Hobart after challenging conditions on Wednesday night.

The list of retirements grew to nine on Thursday with New Caledonia's Eye Candy (forestay damage) forced to pull the pin.

Victorian 47-footer Cyan Moon (damaged gooseneck) and NSW's Flying Cloud (broken boom) both suffered damage but kept sailing.

More than 50 yachts from the starting fleet of 109 were still at sea at 8pm (AEDT) Thursday, with the second smallest last-placed Currawong not expected to arrive in Hobart until the New Year.

Line honours were claimed by supermaxi Andoo Comanche for the fourth time.


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