Wild Oats XI yesterday won the 74th Sydney to Hobart yacht race, claiming line honors for the ninth time.
The Mark Richards-skippered supermaxi crossed the line in Hobart shortly after 8am local time after taking the lead from defending line honors champion Comanche before sunrise.
The win came after Wild Oats XI was stripped of line honors in last year’s race, with a rule breach and time penalty handing victory to Comanche.
Three other supermaxis followed Wild Oats XI into Constitution Dock in Hobart. Black Jack was second, about 28 minutes behind, followed by Comanche in third and Infotrack fourth.
There was some controversy later yesterday when Peter Harburg, the owner of Black Jack, said that the electronic tracker aboard Wild Oats XI was not working, or had been turned off.
Harburg said that Wild Oats XI’s automatic identification system was off toward the end of the race.
Wild Oats XI navigator Juan Vila told local media that he had turned the system on and believed the system had been on for the entire race, which could point to a malfunction.
However, Harburg said that Black Jack was left disadvantaged, because they did not know where Wilds Oats XI was sailing.
“The rules say it’s got to be on all the time,” he said. “They knew where we were all the time, so that has disadvantaged us and Comanche, and we are very disappointed in that.”
However, he did not intend to lodge a protest, Harburg said, but added that the race committee should look into it.
Teams had six hours after racing finishes to lodge a protest.
As Comanche led the group of four down the Tasmanian east coast overnight, Wild Oats XI took a more easterly track, swinging in and sailing past the challengers before sunrise. The move paid off, with the supermaxi swinging in and taking the lead as the yachts prepared to round Tasman Island.
In a Facebook post, Wild Oats XI said it had been a “tough few years for us,” with the team’s hopes dashed by early retirements in 2015 and 2016, and the death of yacht owner Bob Oatley in 2016.
“What a win. We’ve done it ... never before in the 74-year history of this race have four maxis battled it out like this throughout the race and in the Derwent,” the team said.
“It’s a day of redemption for us that’s for sure. We’re so happy with the result,” Richards said.
“We basically sailed around the opposition and got ourselves into a position where the breeze filled in from the southwest — this morning we were in the right spot,” he said.
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