Defending champion Wild Oats XI has taken line honors in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race for a record-equaling seventh time, winning by more than 30 nautical miles (55.5km) yesterday.
Wild Oats, skippered by Mark Richards and owned by billionaire wine mogul Bob Oatley, who is head of the Australian syndicate challenging for the next America’s Cup, crossed the finish line in the 628 nautical mile race in 2 days, 6 hours and 7 minutes.
Wild Oats set the race record last year when it finished in 1 day, 18 hours, but light winds this year left that mark well out of reach.
The other yacht to win seven Hobart races was Morna/Kurrewa IV, the first time in 1946 and the last in 1960.
Anthony Bell’s Perpetual Loyal, which led for some of the first 24 hours of the race, finished second, more than three hours behind after having been 33 nautical miles back when Wild Oats crossed.
The fleet has earlier struggled with the uncharacteristic lack of breeze in the ocean race.
“We’re just bobbing around here,” Loyal’s skipper Anthony Bell had complained late on Friday.
“We have four knots [7.4kph] across the deck. I’ve seen it windier in my two-year-old daughter’s indoor swimming lessons,” he added.
The back of the fleet — mostly smaller yachts — was bracing for southwesterly gale-force winds forecast to hit Bass Strait last night. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology was predicting winds of up to 75kph and seas up to 4m.
In 1998, a storm hit the fleet early in the race, killing six sailors and sinking five yachts.
Four boats had retired from the original 94-yacht fleet that left Sydney Harbor on Thursday.