Handicap honours for Hickman family

TOUGH GOING: Handicap winner Wild Rose on its way to Hobart. Picture: Carlo BorlenghiBAD weather and broken equipment proved no obstacle to the Hickman family and the rest of the crew aboard Wild Rose as the 43-footer claimed handicap honours at the Sydney to Hobart.
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In his 38th tilt at the bluewater classic, owner and skipper Roger Hickman won his third overall title on Tuesday and got to share it with 13 others on board, including sister Lisa and brother Andrew.

‘‘I’m so elated and feeling fantastic … absolutely wonderful,’’ Hickman said after being presented with the Tattersall’s Cup.

It was far from smooth sailing on the way into Hobart for Wild Rose, with Hickman admitting the final 40 nautical miles were the toughest in his experience.

‘‘Gales, winds, becalm, hail … they say it’s a normal Sydney to Hobart yacht racing,’’ he said.

‘‘It made it really tough because we were losing time on the guys that had finished and gaining time on the guys behind us.’’

And it was not the first nervous moment on board either. When Wild Rose reached Tasmania’s mid-east coast early on Monday, potential disaster struck in the form of a broken steering cable.

It was a blow that made navigator Jenifer Wells think any chance at handicap honours was blown.

‘‘It was looking pretty dicey,’’ she said.

‘‘We got the emergency tiller up and got the kite [spinnaker] down in 30-knot [winds] and repaired the cable and were back on track in 30 minutes.’’

Hickman, though, took it all in his stride.

‘‘It was a learning experience. It was a bit of fun,’’ he said of the broken cable and subsequent emergency repairs.

The boat, formerly named Wild Oats and owned by Bob Oatley, whose super-maxi Wild Oats XI took line honours on Sunday, took handicap honours in the 628-nautical mile race in a corrected time of three days, 10 hours, 47 minutes and 43 seconds.

Hickman, 60, said he would be back for more Sydney to Hobart action.

As the last boat, Southern Myth, reached Hobart on Tuesday afternoon the usual celebrations were muted.

A light plane carrying a pilot and photographer crashed into waters near the Tasman Peninsula on Monday and neither man, aged 29 and 61, have been found. Nor has the aircraft.

They had been photographing the racing boats along south-east Tasmania and the plane crashed within 300 metres of competitor Mistraal.

Crew on board the boat radioed for help and along with six other racing yachts went to help in the search.

The yachts that diverted to assist were praised by Cruising Yacht Club of Australia commodore John Cameron.

‘‘An ocean race is of secondary importance to the safety of people, and at the moment we are all thinking of those affected by this event,’’ he said.

A search continues. AAP