Toronto skipper draws inspiration from departed Dad

Darren CooneyFOR Toronto skipper Darren Cooney and his amateur crew of neighbours and friends, just getting to the start line with Inner Circle was an achievement.
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Making it to Constitution Dock on Tuesday morning and narrowly missing a divisional win in the Sydney to Hobart was something else.

Inner Circle, from the Royal Motor Yacht Club Toronto, finished second behind fellow Hunter yacht She’s The Culprit in the Corinthian division, introduced this year for purely amateur crews.

The 27-year-old Farr designed 40-foot yacht was due to finish on Monday night before being one of seven boats called to search for a light plane which went down in waters near the Tasman Peninsula.

The crew on board Mistraal witnessed the single-engine Cessna carrying a pilot and one passenger ditch into waters about 6.20pm before making a mayday call and rushing to where they saw the plane’s tail disappear beneath the waves. The aircraft is believed to have been capturing footage of the racing yachts.

Cooney and his crew spent more than two hours searching before carrying on to Hobart and arriving just after 3am.

Their arrival time was adjusted to 1am, giving them 76th on line honours but 23rd on overall handicap from the 103yachts which finished. On top of their second place in Corinthian, they placed sixth in IRC division four and fifth in ORCi division four.

A relieved Cooney was not allowed to comment on the search but it was clear the 45-year-old was pleased to be in a position to be part of the effort after a long journey to the Sydney start line.

‘‘We started this in September last year after the boat had sat on a mooring since the 2008 Hobart,’’ Cooney said.

‘‘We couldn’t even get a pass for insurance, it was in that bad a shape. Then we decided to clean it up and came up with the harebrain idea to take it to Hobart.’’

Cooney combined with Chris Davidson, Michael Hayward, Chris Greenhaugh, Nigel Wilson and his daughters Emma and Chloe Wilson, as well as Mick McDonald and his son Stuart, to make the race a reality.

Owner and skipper, Cooney was inspired to embark on a seventh Hobart after his father, Robert, died in June last year.

‘‘The boat just sat out the front of dad’s place on a mooring and before he passed away he made the comment that you shouldn’t have such a great old ocean racing boat just sitting there rotting away,’’ Cooney said.

‘‘After he passed away, I thought, why don’t we get it up and going again.’’

After ‘‘astronomical’’ man hours to make the yacht sea-worthy again, Cooney was ecstatic with how it, and his crew, performed.

‘‘With the extent of work we had to do on the boat, we were happy to make the start line and meet all the sea-wise regulations,’’ he said.

‘‘The effort of the whole crew to fix the boat up, they gave 100per cent and sacrificed a lot of time with their family.

‘‘Then the first night it was pretty rough, not extreme, but 35knots on the nose, and the boat didn’t fall apart.

‘‘Then we believed we could get to the finish line.

‘‘Then we started to rack up … points before obviously we went to assist with the search effort.

‘‘We were in the placings and actually winning the Corinthian,’’ Cooney said.

‘‘But we went from hoping we could get to the start line to believing we could actually win something. We did so well.’’

She’s The Culprit, sailing out of the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie clubs, was the most successful of the Hunter contingent.

It finished 59th over the line but won the PHS, Corinthian and PHS division two handicap divisions.

Fellow Toronto yacht Let’s Go finished 75th, just over a minute ahead of Inner Circle, but 68th on handicap.

The other Hunter boats in the fleet, Frantic (19th on line honours), Dare Devil (37th) and Anger Management (40th), finished on Monday.