Tears choked back as historic timber yacht claimed by ocean
SKIPPERMike Freebairn choked back tears as he abandoned the yacht his family had spent a decade restoring, only to give it up to the wild seas of the Tasman yesterday.
Freebairn and his seven crewmates on board the 38-year-old timber yacht Koomooloowere rescued by fellow Sydney to Hobart competitor Adventureyesterday as it was taking on water after falling off the back of a huge wave 60 miles off the New South Wales south coast.
He said the crew ripped up nearly every floorboard of the boat but could not find the leak and had no option but to abandon ship.
‘‘We did everything we could to keep it afloat. The last sighting it was afloat, but we expect it to sink,’’ Freebairn said.
‘‘We took on a lot of water, we were bailing but we had to make the decision for the safety of the crew to abandon.
‘‘We’ve had the boat 10 years and it’s got a pretty big history. We thought it was pretty solid.’’
British entrant Adventureanswered a Mayday call about 8am yesterday and changed course to reach Koomoolooand transfer its crew by liferaft in treacherous seas.
A police launch from Bateman’s Bay picked up the crew off Adventure yesterday afternoon and took them to Eden on the south coast.
The Freebairn family had lovingly restored every nut and bolt on Koomooloosince buying it a decade ago.
The 41-footer was actually leading the race on handicap, in its 10th Sydney to Hobart, when the seas took control.
After punching through one wave, Koomooloowas left with a massive drop, thumping back into the water with a force which eventually sunk the boat in inaccessible deep seas.
Koomooloois the eighth boat to withdraw from the race in heavy seas, but officials said conditions were nowhere near as bad as the tragic 1998race in which six yachtsmen were killed and five boats sank.
The eight yachts that have now pulled out of the race include maxis ABN AmroandMaximuswho lost their masts in big seas while leading the race.
More race action — Sport
BAILING OUT . . . crew members aboard the stricken Koomoolooprior
to being rescued by fellow competitor Adventure
BETTER MEMORIES . . . the Koomooloo was the Sydney to Hobart handicap winner in 1968