Supermaxi yacht Wild Oats XI competes to win the annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race in Hobart. Photo by Reuters.
Race favourites Wild Oats XI clinched their sixth Sydney to
Hobart yacht race, beating their own race record.
The Mark Richards-skippered super-maxi, which had been pushed
along for much of Thursday by strong northerly winds, crossed
the finish line in Tasmania at about 7.23am (local time) to
break their own record by just under 20 minutes.
Their unofficial time was one day, 18 hours, 21 minutes and
Wild Oats set the record of one day, 18 hours, 40 minutes and
10 seconds in 2005 when they not only took line honours for
the 628-nautical mile blue water classic but also won the
overall handicap title as well.
"Only just the race record and you know what 2005 was a great
year but this year was so much better, this is a great result
for the whole team," Richards told Australia's Channel 7. "We
are absolutely stoked."
Last year's winners Ragamuffin Loyal - who pipped Wild Oats
to the line by less than three minutes in 2011 - were about
50 nautical miles from the finish line in second place,
though they will face a race jury later to determine whether
they will be penalised for jumping the gun in Sydney on
Super-maxi Lahana were in third place, about 55 nautical
miles behind Ragamuffin.
Wild Oats had been surfing at more than 24 knots down the
east coast of Tasmania on Thursday and at one stage were more
than 30 nautical miles ahead of her 2005 record pace before
the westerly change.
They rounded Tasman Island off the south-eastern tip of the
island state at about 3.30am (local time) and had been
projected to finish about 50 minutes outside their record.
A south-westerly wind, however, picked up just before they
entered the Derwent River and propelled them to the finish
where they were greeted by a large flotilla of boats
escorting them to victory.
"It was a very tricky night," Richards added.
"The breeze died on us and then the southerly came through
but it was very soft and very testing and we had to do a lot
of sail changes and just worked ourselves into the ground and
the guys did a great job but here we are and I'm very, very
Richards said one of their daggerboards had hit an object
early on Thursday, but it had not affected them too badly.
"We don't know what it was, it could have been a log or
something," Richards said.
Wild Oats' victory moved them within one win of equalling the
record of seven held by Morna/Kurrewa IV.
The start of this year's race on Wednesday had been shrouded
in controversy with the exclusion of 2003 line honours winner
Wild Thing for failing to provide necessary documentation for
modifications to the boat.
Just two of the 76 boats to have started the race have so far
been forced to withdraw, with Living Doll suffering a broken
rudder while Primitive Cool damaged their mainsail.
Both were heading back to Eden on the New South Wales coast
for repairs, race organisers said.