New record as Wild Oats XI wins Sydney to Hobart
HOBART, Australia (AFP) –
Supermaxi Wild Oats XI smashed her own record time in Australia’s gruelling Sydney to Hobart ocean yacht race, taking line honours Friday ahead of Ragamuffin-Loyal.
Thousands of onlookers cheered at Hobart’s Constitution dock as the race favourite came home in one day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds for its sixth victory in the prestigious 628 nautical mile bluewater classic.
It also won every year from 2005 to 2008 and in 2010.
“It was close, we only just made it but it’s a great result for the whole team,” skipper Mark Richards told Channel Seven minutes after crossing the finish line.
“This boat is a great machine and we’re very proud of it. Getting the record is a big thing and it’s very satisfying.”
Ragamuffin-Loyal, which won last year and is skippered by 85-year-old Syd Fischer, was still 50 nautical miles adrift in second and its time could be affected by an international jury hearing after it jumped the start in Sydney.
Lahana was running third, Black Jack fourth and Loki fifth. Jazz leads the handicap standings, which takes into account the dimensions of each boat in the fleet, ahead of Calm and Secret Men’s Business.
The previous record was one day, 18 hours, 40 minutes and 10 seconds, set in 2005, and Richards had his 100-foot yacht well ahead of that pace late Thursday as they powered down Tasmania’s east coast.
But a north-easterly breeze gave way to a weaker westerly that dramatically slowed her down and it was touch and go as the yacht sailed up Hobart’s Derwent River.
“It was a very tricky night, the breeze died on us. It was very testing and we had to make a lot of sail changes, but it’s all part of the Sydney-Hobart,” said Richards.
“The crew have been together a long time and when the going gets tough they just get tougher.”
Wild Oats XI led the 76-vessel fleet from the starting gun in Sydney Harbour on Wednesday in a famously unforgiving race which takes crews across the notorious Bass Strait.
As well as dealing with the unforgiving conditions, the boat hit an unknown object that damaged one of its daggerboards beneath the hull.
Catastrophic conditions claimed six lives and sank five yachts in 1998, and vessels are routinely unable to complete the race. There have so far only been two retirements this year — Living Doll and Primitive Cool.
This year’s event was marred by the controversial expulsion of supermaxi Wild Thing, the 2003 line honours winner, which was among the top three race favourites.
Officials banned it just three hours before the start, citing incomplete documentation of major modifications which extended the vessel to 100 feet.