Anthony Bell won’t defend Perpetual LOYAL’s record-breaking Sydney to Hobart race title, with the owner-skipper instead pointing toward a “new and hot” sailing challenge.
The Australian supermaxi on Wednesday finished the 630 nautical mile blue water classic in one day, 13 hours, 31 minutes and 20 seconds, carving almost five hours off the previous race record.
After crossing the line and pulling into Hobart’s Constitution Dock at about 3am (AEDT) Bell was thrown into the water by his 18-member crew but he remained composed right up until asked if he will be back in 2017.
“With all my heart, no,” an emotional Bell replied.
“We called last shots for the boat last year, we said ‘this is going to be our last trip to Hobart’ and we didn’t make it to Hobart so we thought we should come back.
“This boat is a great boat and it needs the next owner, someone to pick it up and jump into it with passion and enthusiasm.
“We’ve got some detailed plans about something new and hot that I’m going to do in sailing.”
Bell said it would be disrespectful to race organisers and competitors to announce his future endeavour.
LOYAL had failed in it’s Sydney to Hobart challenge for the past two years, retiring in 2015 with rudder damage and forced to pull out the year before with hull damage after hitting something in the water.
But 2016 marked a perfect run for the 100-footer.
“We got a good set of weather conditions,” said Bell, who also took line honours in 2011 with Investec LOYAL.
“Sometimes you just need a little bit of luck and we’ve certainly had our fair share of bad luck, so I was entitled to ask the forecasters for that.”
It was also a different approach for Bell leading into the race.
Very accessible and visible in previous years, he deliberately kept a low profile in 2016.
His media opportunities have been few and far between and the boat’s usual smattering of celebrity crew was reduced to just one: TV personality Erin Molan.
Instead Bell recruited professional sailors, many of whom helped sail Comanche to victory in 2015.
Not so lucky in 2016 was eight -time line honours winner Wild Oats XI.
Leading the race and more than four hours ahead of her own 2012 race record time, the supermaxi was forced to retire on Tuesday morning with a hydraulic problem that impacted the operation of the boat’s keel.
Bell said he witnessed the moment Wild Oats XI struck trouble.
“We saw the boat tilt right over, we saw them come to a sudden stop,” the skipper said.
“Our first worry was that it might have lost a crew member overboard.
“We radioed them … and said ‘hey if you’re in trouble we’re prepared to stop the race and go over and help the guys’ but the fortunate thing is no one got hurt.”
Wild Oats XI has since pulled into Eden on the NSW far south coast for repairs while her crew was bussed to Sydney.
Second place line honours have gone to New Zealand entry Giacomo, a Volvo 70 boat, which finished 116 minutes behind LOYAL and just two minutes ahead of Hong Kong supermaxi Scallywag in third place.