Supermaxi Wild Oats XI won its eighth line honors in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race yesterday, officials said, to become the most successful yacht in the history of the competition.
The Mark Richards-skippered 100-footer crossed the finish line ahead of US newcomer Comanche in the grueling 628 nautical mile (1,163km) race down the east coast of southern Australia, organizers the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia said.
The nine-year-old yacht crossed the line after two days, two hours, three minutes and 26 seconds at 3:03pm, while Comanche finished in two days, two hours, 52 minutes and 44 seconds.
“It was our toughest race. To have a boat [Comanche] so close is always difficult, especially when they are going faster than you,” Richards told reporters in Hobart after the yacht crossed the line at Battery Point. “We managed to pull it off and I just said to the guys, we have just got to hang in there, hang tough, minimize the losses and wait for the first opportunity we could to attack, and we did — and it paid off.”
Wild Oats XI, one of five supermaxis — the biggest and fastest yachts — in this year’s race was also first across the line every year from 2005 to 2008 and in 2010, 2012 and last year.
It surpassed the record of Morna/Kurrewa IV, which won seven line honors titles in the 1950s and in 1960.
However, choppy seas during the race meant the leaders were unable to challenge the race record set by Wild Oats XI in 2012 of one day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds.
The new, cutting-edge Comanche, owned by US technology entrepreneur Jim Clark, had a stellar start when it flew out of Sydney Harbor at the start on Friday, followed closely by Wild Oats XI.
However, as the boats turned south, they encountered choppy seas, prompting the fleet to spread out as they tried to avoid the worst of the weather.
By morning, the winds had eased, giving an advantage to the slimline Wild Oats XI, owned by billionaire Bob Oatley, which broke away from the wider-bodied Comanche on Saturday afternoon.
Wild Oats XI extended its lead on the second night, taking advantage of a high-pressure ridge in the Bass Strait, although Comanche narrowed the gap to 10 nautical miles at Tasman Island yesterday.
“It all went really, really well. To win a Hobart is such a great honor, but to win an eighth one, it’s just wonderful,” Richards said. “The opportunity to rewrite a bit of sailing history doesn’t happen every day of the week, that’s for sure. Just a very exciting moment.”
Oatley said his yacht would “definitely be back next year,” adding: “It’s a miracle... she is the best boat in the world, she’s proved that.”
Clark said he was not sure if Comanche would be back to race next year, but praised Wild Oats XI and its crew.
“Wild Oats and Mark Richards ran one hell of a race and it’s a really excellent boat,” he said.
The Sydney to Hobart was Comanche’s first major ocean race, with accomplished US skipper Ken Read admitting before the start that the yacht — which is broader than its class rivals and has a towering 150-foot mast set further back than most — was not perfect for the competition.
Another supermaxi, Perpetual Loyal, was the most high-profile retirement after withdrawing with hull damage, while Brindabella, a former line honors winner, also pulled out after it started taking on excess water due to damage to rudder bearings.
The 70th Sydney to Hobart bluewater classic drew its biggest fleet since 1994, of 117 yachts.
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