The race for Sydney to Hobart line honours has been whittled down to three boats after dark horse SHK Scallywag retired with a broken bow sprit on Boxing Day.
And if her skipper’s pre-race comments are anything to go by, the Hong Kong-based supermaxi may never feature in the bluewater classic again.
Reigning line honours champion and race favourite Andoo Comanche led the fleet into the night, with rival 100ft supermaxi LawConnect in second place, roughly six miles behind at 10pm.
Wild Thing 100 was a distant third place in her first race since being upgraded from Botin 80 Stefan Racing and in-form 72-footer URM Group led a cluster of boats behind that.
Scallywag, the fourth supermaxi entered into the race, withdrew off Gerroa on the NSW south coast roughly six hours after the starting gun was fired.
The boat had little choice given a broken bow sprit makes it impossible to fly spinnakers.
“The team are obviously very disappointed given the great progress we were making but thankful no one was injured and that we could safely recover the sails that were in the air at the time,” a statement from SHK Scallywag read.
“The team are currently making their way back to Sydney.”
The news came after skipper David Witt flagged Scallywag would ship out to Europe in the new year and had no plans to contest the Hobart again.
Witt, who has previously raced on Ragamuffin and Nokia, also intended for his 27th Hobart to be his last chance at a maiden victory.
“The boat goes on a ship to Europe next year and we won’t be back,” Witt said.
“This is 27 (27th race) for me and my last go.”
The 40-footer Arcadia also retired with a torn mainsail, while two-hander Rum Rebellion bowed out for unspecified reasons, leaving the fleet at 100 boats.
Scallywag’s withdrawal comes after she spent roughly 18 months out of the water undergoing modifications in the lead-up to her first Hobart since 2021.
She shed 500kg of weight in her mast in that time and finished third on line honours at both the Cabbage Tree Island Race and Big Boat Challenge this month.
Scallywag was second out of the heads behind LawConnect but not before a dramatic close call with reigning line honours champion Comanche.
Scallywag had to complete a 720 penalty turn after nearly colliding with Comanche, which flew a protest flag after her rival tacked only metres from her.
The fact the incident had taken place in Sydney Harbour meant Scallywag had only a limited distance in which to complete the penalty turns, or risk receiving a time sanction on arrival in Hobart.
Race officials confirmed Scallywag completed the turn off the coast of Bondi Beach.
From there Scallywag fell to third behind LawConnect and Comanche, with the latter taking the lead off the coast of Port Kembla at roughly 4.30pm.
Earlier, last year’s line honours runner-up LawConnect was fastest out of the gate.
But when a furling line snapped after she passed the first marker out of the Sydney Heads, she turned towards the spectator fleet in an attempt to correct the issue.
LawConnect made the best of a change in the wind to pass the heads first. The furling line issue has since been fixed.