Family trio (L-r) father Ian, and sons Nicholas and Michael Cooke competed in the Sydney to Hobart. Photo: Jay Cronan
Nicholas Cooke has long harboured ambitions of completing the Sydney to Hobart with his father Ian and older brother Michael.
And the young Canberra sailor managed to cross it off his bucket list, despite a torn sail turning the family dream into a nightmare with the finish line in sight.
The Cooke clan were part of the Inca crew just six hours away from the Tasmanian coastline when a freak gust of wind ripped their headsail apart. Forced to use a storm sail a third of the size, the cruel dose of misfortune delayed their arrival by about 15 hours.
It ensured Nicholas's race debut was tougher than he could have imagined, and ensured CIC Technology Inca - a Vickers 41 Mk11 - finished second last.
They beat Maluka of Kermandie, an 80-year-old restored boat the smallest in the fleet, by just 12 minutes in a desperate, but slow, race to the finish. Arriving about 9.30pm on New Year's Eve, the 20-year-old has never been happier to see dry land and a beer.
''I'd describe it looking as if Freddy Krueger had had a go at it, a couple of tears straight off the top of the sail,'' Nicholas said of the torn sail on Tuesday.
''Once you're on the boat there's no getting off, so you have to man up and push through it.
''It was a little bit demoralising, we essentially had a handkerchief as a sail. The last shift was the toughest one, probably the longest three hours of my life.
''It did get to the point where you just want to get there, but I'll definitely be doing it again.''
Despite the adversity, Ian was impressed by Nicholas's resilience, rating it the toughest of his five Sydney to Hobart campaigns.
''I think this is the hardest one I've done, not from a weather point of view but just because it was a pure, hard slog,'' Ian said.
''He [Nicholas] did it with a smile on his face, and his first time, not knowing what to expect, that may have been dumb ignorance. We went from a reasonable spot to almost stone motherless last, but you just have to shrug your shoulders because sailing can be like that.''
Ian said avoiding last place provided much-needed motivation in the final stages of their frustrating five-day, eight-hour and 40-minute trek.
''We could see Maluka coming up in the distance, I don't think we've ever sailed so hard to push as much as we could to get there before them,'' he said.
''Because the wind was on the nose most of the way, which is pretty hard sailing, it meant we couldn't sail anywhere near the course that a boat which has proper sails up can do.''