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Emotional Mustafa Ingham savours Sydney Hobart Race glory

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Mustafa Ingham, back row fifth right, celebrates with his fellow team-mates on board the supermaxi LawConnect (Photograph supplied)

Seizing coveted line honours in the prestigious Sydney Hobart Race proved to be an emotional and surreal experience for Bermudian Mustafa Ingham and his team-mates on the supermaxi LawConnect.

Christian Beck’s 100-foot yacht was the first to finish the 630-nautical-mile race, crossing the line shortly after 8am yesterday to stop the clock at one day, 19 hours, three minutes and 58 seconds.

LawConnect was neck neck-and-neck with defending champion and race favourite Ando Comanche for the entire race before surging ahead for good about 100 metres from the finish to pip their rivals by a mere 51 seconds.

It was the second-closest finish in race history after Condor of Bermuda beat Apollo by a mere seven seconds in 1982.

“It’s a bit surreal honestly and a bit emotional just getting around everybody,” Ingham told The Royal Gazette. “When we crossed that finish line it was like ‘we’ve actually done it’.

LawConnect and Ando Comanche battle it out in light breeze near the finish of the Sydney Hobart Race (Photograph supplied)

“We knew we could but we didn’t know it would look like that because we were so far behind. I think we were a good 10 kilometres behind them.”

John Winning Jr’s Comanche held a narrow lead into the River Derwent with the finish line within sight but stalled in the light wind which allowed LawConnect to catch up and pass them.

“Coming into Derwent we’d seen them parked up, which gave us some hope,” Ingham added. “They were basically at the finish line, they could see the finish and we could just see them.

“Then we caught them and could see the finish line and from then it was a cat-and-mouse game.

“We had the breeze coming down with us so we are always in the pressure and then we got into a gybing duel and that’s where I think it showed our crew work is pretty top-notch because we were outgybing them every time. We would always gain during the gybe accelerating in clean air going forwards.

“We would go one way and they would cover us, we’d gybe back around them and Chris Nicholson had a strategy in his head and implemented it.

“You’d think everybody would be panicking or nervous on the boat but it was just so calm. We gave it everything and somehow got around them. That final gybe to the finish just nailed the layline perfectly.”

Mustafa Ingham, right, in action on board LawConnect during the Sydney Hobart Race (Photograph supplied)

The lead swapped hands multiple times throughout the race.

LawConnect led the fleet early after setting sail from Sydney Harbour on Boxing Day before being passed by rival supermaxi SHK Scallywag exiting out of the Heads in Sydney.

However, that proved to be shortlived as Ingham and his team-mates regained the lead within an hour.

The battle for line honours took another twist when Comanche grasped the lead after sailing into fresher breeze farther leeward than LawConnect and it became a two-boat race when fellow front-runner Skallywag was forced to retire after snapping her bowsprit in heavier wind.

“We were coming into 20 knots the whole time so it was not a slow race at all,” Ingham said.

“It was very wet and the sea state was horrendous. We it had rough, calm sideways, front on, coming from directly behind. It was just funky because you get all these different wind directions constantly swinging around.

“It was very nice but last night [Wednesday] we sailed into thunderstorms, which was pretty hectic.”

LawConnect momentarily pulled alongside the leaders before they sped off again after the breeze filled back in.

“We came out the thunderstorm neck and neck with Comanche so we both parked up in no breeze,” Ingham said. “We were parallel to each other and no one was ahead.

“We were 50 metres from them so we could see everyone on deck and then the breeze just clocked on and they caught the pressure before we did and just took off. Then it was just chasing them around Tasmania pretty much.”

Victory was especially sweet for the crew of LawConnect after they had finished runner-up in the Bluewater Classic the previous three years.

“It just always felt like we were destined for second place,” Ingham said. “No matter how hard we tried it just seemed like there was always a better boat. Maybe not a better team as Christian said.

“We just threw everything at the boat. The jib was falling apart by the time we got to the end of it. We just literally gave everything it had, squeezed every little ounce out of it.

“I think 51 seconds doesn’t paint the picture because it felt like nine right on the line. It was not a photo finish but once we crossed I don’t think they kept pushing on as it was just like a bit of shock.

“I just really want to thank Mitch White, Christian Beck, Tony Mutter and everybody that got me here as well. I think I am very blessed to be in the position that I am and it’s just not me.

“At the end of the day it’s Laura Cutler and everyone that looked after us. Bermuda got me here and the fact they get around it makes me very happy.

“It just makes me feel very fortunate and hopefully one day I can do something to help the youth in this sport or just in sport in general.”

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Published December 29, 2023 at 8:01 am (Updated December 30, 2023 at 8:10 am)

Emotional Mustafa Ingham savours Sydney Hobart Race glory

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