Ireland has a direct connection to the fastest and most modern super–maxi yacht in the world, thanks to its new owner Jim Cooney, a fourth generation Australian of County Meath descent.
Cooney, who hails from the town of Ballivor in Meath, and still has family members in the town, races on St. Stephen's Day in his eighth Sydney-Hobart race, and is already tipped for debut success in the mighty 100–foot LDV Comanche.
Cooney, a renewable energy entrepreneur, added the spectacular super maxi to his impressive Sydney Harbour fleet when he purchased the boat from American owner Jim Clark this month.
'This campaign is Irish from bow to stern. You've got me at the back and Justin [Slattery] at the front'. Cooney told Afloat.ie dockside in Sydney.
Cooney, who has lined up a who's who of the world's best sailors to crew the yacht has among his team Cork's Slattery, a double Volvo Ocean Race Winner.
'LDV Comanche is a truly awe-inspiring yacht, and the chance to race to Hobart, alongside my children Julia and James with a world class crew, is a once in a lifetime opportunity too good to pass up. I started ocean racing 30 years ago and we have raced as a family in many parts of the world for 12 years, but this is an incredible opportunity for us to challenge for the world’s toughest blue water classic,” says Cooney, who finished sixth on line in last year’s race at the helm of his Volvo 70 ‘Maserati’ and campaigned his iconic maxi Brindabella for seven years before that.
Tuesday's race will be no walk in the park for the fastest boat in the fleet, however, not least navigating the 100-footer out of a congested Sydney harbour in thefirst few minutes of the 600–miler with rivals jostling for every advantage.
For the first time in the race's history, the fleet contains four super maxis making the stakes for Cooney even higher.
“This year competition is fierce, with the strongest line up of super maxis ever seen in one race. Depending on conditions, any of the 100 footers could take line honours, it threatens to be one of the best races in the history of the event,” Cooney told Afloat.ie
Immediate sailing plans for Comanche include more regattas on the Australian East coast but a northern hemisphere campaign may be in the pipeline for 2019, a Fastnet Race year. It's early days, but Cooney told Afloat.ie he would not rule out a future Round Ireland Yacht Race bid either.
Read: WM Nixon's Sydney-Hobart Preview here