Keel failure kicks maxi from Sydney-Hobart

What’s it like when you spend considerable time getting ready for an event and then fate comes in to give you a kick in the teeth? Ask Bill Buckley, the owner of the aptly named maxi boat Maximus, which suffered a keel failure only days before the start of the Sydney-Hobart Race. At left is the eight-inch crack seen on Maximus‘ keel after the boat was hauled.

From the press release: Keel failure has forced the New Zealand maxi Maximus out of the Rolex Sydney Hobart. Owner Bill Buckley’s worst fears were realised this afternoon as his 30 tonne boat was lifted out of the water at Woolwich Dock.

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.

They have spent the past year preparing for a re-match, replacing their troublesome wing mast with a new fixed mast, amongst 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 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.

“It’s an absolute tragedy,” said Wild Oats XI’s skipper Mark Richards this afternoon.

“The more competitors the merrier for us. Knowing the time and effort that goes into preparing for this race, we are feeling very sad for the crew, many of who are mates of ours”.

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.

By Ocean Navigator