Race to salvage Huntress after Sydney to Hobart competitor beached on Cape Barren Island

Home Sports Race to salvage Huntress after Sydney to Hobart competitor beached on Cape Barren Island
Race to salvage Huntress after Sydney to Hobart competitor beached on Cape Barren Island

A yacht abandoned during the Sydney to Hobart yacht race has washed ashore on one of Tasmania’s most remote beaches after drifting for a week, with concerns for the area’s culture and environmental significance.

The crew of Huntress, a 12-metre cruiser, enjoyed “36 hours of absolute champagne sailing” during the 77th Sydney to Hobart race before conditions changed dramatically.

“We had 12 hours of very testing conditions on Tuesday night that unfortunately resulted in the loss of our rudder at 0700hrs Wednesday. While surfing a wave at 20 knots (boat speed), we heard a loud thud,” the crew wrote in an Instagram post.

“It became obvious that the rudder had sheared off when we saw it floating away in the distance.”

With some of the eight on board experiencing seasickness and authorities informing them a “tow would be too dangerous”, the “extremely difficult and heart-wrenching decision” was made to “leave Huntress floundering 80 nautical miles (148 kilometres) offshore”, the team posted on social media.

Photo showing the rudder of Sydney to Hobart competitor Huntress.
An image, with arrow drawn by crew members, indicating Huntress’ broken rudder floating away.(Instagram: huntress888racing)

The crew were then taken aboard a police vessel and transferred to Flinders Island, where they said a salvage operation was “already being planned for her safe transfer to mainland Tasmania” on December 29.

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Facebook post showing group of people at Flinders Island airport.
Huntress’ crew pictured at Flinders Island airport, after waiting “nearly 12 hours to be rescued in rough seas”.(Facebook: Loretta Kiss)

Since then, Huntress has been drifting off Tasmania’s north-east coast without navigation lights or transmission of an Automatic Identification System (AIS) signal after the yacht’s batteries went flat.

It has now washed ashore on Christmas Beach on truwana/Cape Barren Island.

A yacht lying on its side on an empty beach.
Huntress ashore on Christmas Beach, on Cape Barren Island.(Twitter: Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania)

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Marine and Safety Tasmania (MAST) first issued a warning to marine traffic on Tuesday, five days after the yacht was abandoned, alerting that Huntress was drifting 15 nautical miles off the Tasmanian mainland. 

According to the MAST alert, an at-sea salvage attempt was due to take place — but before that could happen, the vessel had gone ashore.

In a now-deleted post, the boat’s owner said the team were “angry, devastated and at a complete loss as to how the hell it came to this, given she was floating around for a week now with ample opportunity to be towed to safety”.

Beaching site not accessible by road 

A top-down shot shows a yacht on a beach with its mast askew.
A salvage of Huntress is set to be attempted this weekend.(Twitter: Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania)

Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania manager Rebecca Digney said there were serious concerns about the yacht breaking up.

“Everyone is relieved that no one was on the vessel but just a bit shocked to have this ghost vessel wash up on the beach,” she said.

“At the moment, the yacht appears to be intact, but we are concerned what should happen if that yacht were to break apart. It’s going to be hard to recover the vessel and keep it intact.”

Path of a yacht as seen on a map.
The race tracker showing the location (green line) of Huntress drifting before it beached on Cape Barren Island.(Supplied: Rolex Sydney to Hobart)

She described Christmas Beach as a “very clean, pristine and remote place”. 

“It’s an area frequented by the Aboriginal people that live on truwana/Cape Barren Island,” she said. 

“The island is the only parcel of land in the whole of Tasmania to have a permanent, full-time Aboriginal population living on Aboriginal land.” 

The area is only accessible by foot or by boat.

Salvage attempts will now be made at the weekend.

It is the second year Huntress has failed to finish the Sydney to Hobart.

In 2021, in its maiden race, Huntress retired from competition due to mainsail damage.

Huntress yacht at sea.
Huntress, Sydney to Hobart competitor, pictured in December 2022.(Facebook: huntress888racing)

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