Condor and Nirvana Protest (Modern Boating Article)
By 10.30 am on December 30, 54 yachts had berthed, Challenge was looking unbeatable and the protest hearing between Nirvana and Condor was due to start in the boardrooms of the Wrest Point Casino.
Condor was represented by the outspoken Ted Turner, who'd been at the helm when the incident occurred, relying on his own evidence and the introduction of video film. Nirvana's case was presented by navigator Peter Bowker, who called in crewmen Geoff Prior and Steve Colgate (who'd been at the helm at the time) as witnesses.
While the protest committee of Tasmanian officials Frank lkin, Olaf Hedburg, David Burton and David Peacock, and chairman Dr john Park (president of the Hong Kong Yachting Association) deliberated for over an hour to reach their decision, Ted Turner provided ample diversion for the yachtsmen, news crews and journalists waiting in the corridor outside.
The cable news network owner held court on subjects ranging from disarmament ("lf l were President . . ."), to his friendship and admiration for Fidel Castro, to the politics of television (with some good-natured dissension between himself and Marvin Green, another television magnate responsible for Sesame Street and That's Incredible, among other programs). Turner even offered $100,000 off the cuff for any verifiable sighting of a Tasmanian 'tiger'.
Then he and Bowker were called back into the protest room and emerged with a decision in Condor's favour. A dignified Green conceded that the protest committee's task had been a hard one and though he wasn't happy with the decision, he accepted it. Bell and Turner were also low-key, feeling that their rights had been vindicated but "sorry to see it end like this."
Facts found by the committee were as follows: "Nirvana on starboard tack was being overtaken by Condor also on starboard tack. Condor was sailing faster than Nirvana and overtook her to windward and between her and the shore. At the time the overlap was established there was sufficient room for Condor to establish it in safety. The overlap was established at least five lengths prior to the position of the grounding. Both yachts had steerageway, but were moving slowly with Condor moving faster than Nirvana.
Condor hailed for water while holding a course to clear the White Rock. Nirvana was sailing higher than Condor and holding a course closing the shore. Condor hailed again for room and Nirvana commenced to pull away. Condor struck the bottom and stopped. Condor did not have sufficient room to clear the shore and her stopping caused a minor contact between the yachts after the grounding. Rules applicable are 42.1 la); 42.3 (a) and 42.3 (f)".
The decision: "Nirvana is disqualified for failing to give Condor sufficient room. Condor's request for time is rejected as it does not meet the requirements of Rule 69 (a), (b) or (c)."
Reporters turned to race records to find that only one 'first home' yacht had been disqualified from previous Sydney-Hobarts. Wild Wave was scrubbed from the 1953 race for a start line infringement.
Back at the dock, the goodwill between crews of the two maxis was testimony to how close the racing between them had been and how little either side had wanted it to "end like that".