Tears choked back as his­toric tim­ber yacht claimed by ocean

Townsville Bulletin - - inside today -

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

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