Twenty hours after the 100-footer Wild Oats XI was first to cross the finish line in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, she has been declared the official line-honors winner after being cleared of a protest lodged by the race committee.
Wild Oats XI completed the 628-course from Sydney Harbor to Hobart, Tasmania, in 2 days 7 hours and 37 minutes, in the process surviving one of the toughest Sydney Hobart Races in recent memory. However, she was in danger of having the finish thrown out for not meeting the race’s safety requirements.
Ever since the 1998 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race in which six sailors died and five boats sank when the fleet was hit by severe weather, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA), which organizes the race, has placed a premium on safety.
In the case of Wild Oats XI, the boat had problems with its VHF radio, and it was unclear whether the crew had been racing at one point without being able to provide a position report correctly, in violation of the rules. The boat did, in fact, alter course for about 20 minutes while it was fixing the radio and only resumed racing after it had received confirmation that a shore station was receiving its signal.
After being cleared by the protect committee, Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards said that while he was confident his crew had fully complied with the rules, he was still very relieved when the final verdict was announced.
“Protests are never a good thing, especially from the race committee. They had reasons to do what they did, but fortunately we’d done our homework, ticked off all the boxes and got out of trouble,” Richards said. “Juries are very good at making you sweat, and they made us sweat today, but common sense prevailed and the right result was made. Two good things came out of this: race officials are very serious about safety, and the back-up plans that are in place are working.”
The victory marks the fifth time in six attempts that Wild Oats XI has been first to finish in the Rolex Sydney Hobart race, one of the toughest sailing races in the world, thanks to the typically rough weather in the Bass Strait between Australia and Tasmania.
The 66th edition of the race, which always begins on “Boxing Day” December 26, featured a classic southerly “buster” with rough seas and winds on the nose greater than 40 knots. At press time, 18 of the 87 boats taking part had to withdraw because of damage, including everything from ripped sails to failed rudder bearings and at least one dismasting. Although there were some minor injuries, no one was seriously.
With dozens of boats still at sea, organizers had also not yet declared a winner of the Tattersail Cup, which goes to the handicap winner of the race.
For complete results, including real-time race tracking, click here.