SYDNEY – Australian supermaxi LawConnect took line honours in the punishing Sydney-Hobart ocean race on Thursday, pipping rival Andoo Comanche in one of the tightest-ever finishes to the blue water classic.

The two 100-foot supermaxis jostled for position as they charged down Australia’s east coast overnight, and were separated by around two nautical miles as they turned into the final stretch on Tasmania’s River Derwent.

Having trailed for much of the morning, LawConnect outwitted Andoo Comanche with the finish line in sight after almost two full days of “cat-and-mouse” sailing.

With 51 seconds separating the two yachts, race organisers said it was the second closest finish in the prestigious race’s 78-year history only beaten by the 1982 edition which was decided by seven seconds.

“It’s a dream come true. I never thought it was possible actually,” LawConnect skipper Christian Beck told reporters in Hobart.

“They took the lead pretty close to the line. We thought there was no way we could get it back.”

The 103-strong racing fleet had been battered by thunderstorms and heavy swells since setting off from Sydney Harbour on Tuesday.

By Thursday morning the field had been whittled down to 92 vessels, with rough conditions forcing a number of damaged boats to retire.

LawConnect has been the runner-up in the three previous editions of the race, while the heavily favoured Andoo Comanche was last year’s victor.

Beck said it was a major feat to triumph over the better-resourced Comanche boat, which bills itself as the “world’s fastest supermaxi”.

“The boat, I jokingly call it a shitbox. But compared to Comanche it honestly is a shitbox,” Beck said.

“You look up close and it’s rough as anything. Comanche is a beautiful boat, it’s better in every way.”

LawConnect’s unlikely victory was even more remarkable given a violent wind gust ripped one of its sails early in the contest.

“It was totally ruined. That was during one of those squalls on the first night,” said Beck.

It fought a running duel with Comanche after Hong Kong-owned supermaxi SHK Scallywag, which had been in a three-way battle for the lead, was forced to bow out of the race on Tuesday evening.

Law Connect crossed with a winning time of one day, 19 hours, three minutes and 58 seconds.

First held in 1945, this year marked the 25th anniversary of a violent storm that tore into the 1998 race fleet, with wild winds whipping up mountainous seas in which six people died, five boats sank and 55 sailors were rescued. AFP

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