Wild Oats XI wins Sydney to Hobart race in record time
The yacht wiped nearly five hours off the previous race record set last year
Australian super-maxi Wild Oats XI sails towards the finish line to win the annual 630 nautical miles (1166 kilometres) Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. Photograph: Reuters
Wild Oats XI has crossed the line ahead of LDV Comanche in a record time to claim a ninth win in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
The yacht took one day, eight hours, 48 minutes and 50 seconds to complete the course - wiping nearly five hours off the previous race record set last year by Perpetual Loyal.
But Wild Oats’s crew will face a protest hearing in front of an international race jury to determine if she will be crowned a champion or face a penalty after a near collision with LDV Comanche at the start of the race in Sydney Harbour.
“I think it was totally innocent and we should be able to defend ourselves against that quite clearly,” said Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards - who was soaked in champagne following dockside celebrations in Hobart. “I am not concerned about that at all.”
After 628 nautical miles of racing less than half an hour separated Wild Oats XI, owned by the Oakley family, and sparring partner LDV Comanche in one of the closest ever finishes in the race’s storied history.
“I thought this year Comanche was going to crush it. Words can’t express how elated we all are,” said Richards.
After berthing at Constitution Dock LDV Comanche looked to congratulate the Wild Oats XI crew but a spokesperson confirmed to the Guardian their intention to protest against the line honours winner.
The hearing is expected to take place on Thursday at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania in Hobart where Richards will rigorously defend his position. If the protest is upheld his crew will be hit with a time penalty of at least five minutes.
Irrespective of the looming protest against Wild Oats XI it will be the second year in a row that time has been shaved off the race benchmark, with both yachts eclipsing Perpetual Loyal’s best in a tense climax between two blistering super maxis that nearly tangled at the start on Sydney Harbour.
Earlier LDV Comanche rounded Tasman Island in first place, with thoroughbred Wild Oats XI breathing down her neck just two miles astern - setting up a thrilling finish - as both 100 footers eyeballed each other over the final hours of sailing.
It was a frantic scramble to the end marker with a duel for the ages on the Derwent between LDV Comanche and Wild Oats XI - the latter pouncing when the wind dropped to close the gap to just metres before pulling away from the wider and heavier Comanche less than 10 miles from the finish. Comanche came in 26 minutes and 34 seconds behind.
“All of a sudden the dream came true - seeing the Derwent with no wind in it,” said Richards. “Wild Oats was just a better boat in those conditions.”
After failing to conclude her last two tilts towards Hobart it was a magnificent tactical effort from Richards and the crew aboard Oats, who had to clamber this morning to fix a ripped sail to get her back into contention for the tilt at yet more bluewater glory.
New South Wales entry Quest leads the race on corrected time ahead of Ichi Ban. Quest, a two-time handicap winner is a 52 footer and is co-owned by former television host Paul Clitheroe (who sailed her to victory in the 2015 edition of the race under the name Balance) and Bob Steel (a multiple winner of sailing’s holy grail).
Clipper boat CV5 had a sailor washed overboard late on the second afternoon of racing, with yacht HotelPlanner.com offering assistance in the manhunt. The sailor was located and safely pulled back on board within 15 minutes and given the medical all clear.
By the time the leaders had finished there had been three retirements from the once 102-strong fleet. Rockall, Jazz Player and Wots Next all had their races end prematurely.