The Balance crew celebrates winning line honours.
The Balance crew celebrates winning line honours. ANDREW DRUMMOND

Balance skipper happy to take line honours eventually

Paul Clitheroe was so convinced Quikpoint Azzurro would beat his own boat Balance for handicap honours in the Sydney to Hobart that half of the crew flew home.

While Balance was the seventh boat across the line, way back on Tuesday afternoon, Quickpoint seemed certain to win on adjusted time when it had less than 80 nautical miles to go late on Wednesday afternoon, and only needed to reach the finish line by 4.43 yesterday morning to take the prestigious handicap title.

But while the run down the New South Wales coast and across Bass Strait can be hazardous, the final run around the south-east corner of Tasmania and up the Derwent often holds a different kind of challenge.

And so it proved for Quikpoint Azzurro's skipper Shane Kearns, who described the last few hours of the race as "awful" after finally reaching Constitution Dock at 7.21am.

"The first night's storm was easier than Storm Bay and the Derwent," he said.

"It was really frustrating - we knew we had a time limit, we really wanted to come first, but there was no wind."

Clitheroe, on the other hand, had spent all of Wednesday night keeping one eye on the clock and the other on Quikpoint's painfully slow progress to the finish line.

He was convinced the smallest boat in the fleet would win, but as time drifted by and Quikpoint Azzurro drifted slowly up river, he eventually realised Balance had claimed the prestigious trophy, getting on the phone to his crew to tell them to "get on a plane fast and get back here".

"I thought the little boat had beaten us, until the Derwent River decided otherwise," the finance guru said.

"We thought they'd beat us by three hours, to be quite honest with you, but the Derwent is an unusual creature. As the time went by we breathed a sigh of relief. We are honoured to win this trophy, we wanted to win this trophy."

That may have been the case after Balance finished seventh, but claiming handicap honours was hardly on his radar prior to the start.

"The primary goal is getting there safe," the 60-year-old told APN in the lead-up to the great race.

"I've had a couple of seconds in my division ... but not even a top 10. I've never nailed a Hobart." Like line honours winner Comanche, which almost pulled out on the first night after suffering damage to the rudder and a daggerboard in a violent storm, Balance was lucky to keep going after the boat tore its main sail and some of the crew, including Clitheroe, were left battered and bruised.

"I got hurled across the boat on night one, and my old bones didn't appreciate it," he said. "After about 18 hours of wind we had the daylights beaten out of us, and just had enough, to be quite honest."

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