Hobart – Finally, the Juan Kouyoumdjian-design 100-footer made good. She won, and she won in record time, blitzing Wild Oats XI’s previous time for the 628 nautical mile race by just under five hours. That has done a lot to erase the memories of the previous two Hobart races when she had to retire.
“It defies a lot of the worries we had. It is one for the true believers,” Bell said on arriving in Hobart.
“We worked on this. So many people believed in this; we came back and had another go at it and it paid off.”
He didn’t intend competing in this race. Last year was to have been Loyal’s last under Bell’s command but the crew decided collectively to try to make amends.
“We called last shots last year. We didn’t make it to Hobart so we thought we should come back and put it together again.”
They had a couple of things up their sleeves. They knew they could sail faster than expected in running conditions; they already knew they were a better heavy weather boat than Wild Oats, and they had prepared properly this time. Then they saw Wild Oats XI in strife on Tuesday morning when she was halted by a problem with the hydraulic ram that controls the canting keel.
“It was sad to see them break,” Bell said. “We saw it happen, we were less than a mile away. We saw the boat tilt right over and we saw them come to a sudden stop. Our first worry was that they may have lost a crew member overboard. We radioed them and told them we were prepared to stop the race and go over and help the guys. The fortunate thing was no one got hurt and we didn’t have to stop sailing in the race. We thought we were a fair shot against them … but that’s racing,” Bell said.
There were some big issues on Perpetual Loyal. Straight after the start its biggest headsail would not unfurl properly and was stuck, swinging in the breeze. A crewman was aloft for one and half hours fixing the problem. There were further problems with the sail, and then at midday on Tuesday, the mast started to move.
“We got the engineers up there and we got through that,” he said. “We had our fair share of problems: we just got over the top of them. Calmness and coolness on our boat was the thing that got us through. The most important part was that we had nothing to lose. We turned up. I don’t think anyone expected us to do well in this race. The bookies certainly didn’t. We always thought we were.’
Bell will not return to the race with Perpetual LOYAL.
“With all my heart, no. This boat’s a great boat and it needs the next owner, someone to jump into it with passion and enthusiasm. It’s a boat that’s just broken a record.”
As far as his future was concerned, he said people would have to wait and see.
“Everything’s about evolution. Everything’s about the next thing. I’ve got some detailed plans on something new and hot that I am going to do in sailing.”
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