Finishing the race yesterday (Wednesday) just before 1.30pm, Saies arrived in Hobart to hear the news that he was being protested by Todd Leary ( She’s the Culprit) in relation to a collision that forced the Tasmanian boat to retire with a hole punched in her starboard side.
Adamant he was innocent, Saies was devastated at the thought he had finished this year’s mentally tough 628 nautical mile race in good time, but may have lost the coveted Tattersall's Cup to a boat of the same Beneteau design, Wicked, owned by Mike Welsh from Victoria.
“I felt absolute elation when the decision was handed down,” an emotional Saies said at a press conference this afternoon.
“I was very, very happy with the international jury’s decision,” said the South Australian yachtsman who told how waiting to hear the decision weighed on his mind.
“This is an iconic yacht race and every yachtie in Australia wants to win it. I feel proud to have achieved this once in a lifetime goal.”
"I’ve been dreaming of winning this trophy since I was 12 years old," an emotional Saies said.
An international jury of five heard five protests at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania relating to the same incident which occurred at the first rounding mark of the Rolex Sydney Hobart, conducted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, which began last Saturday at 1pm. The jury heard evidence for approximately one and half hours and deliberated for another hour before delivering their findings.
The protest against Two True relating to an incident on Sydney Harbour was dismissed by the International Jury, as were protests against Colortile and She’s the Culprit, the latter having sustained damage.
However Nick Athineos’ Beneteau 47.7 Kioni was disqualified also relating to an incident on Sydney Harbour.
“I’m in great company with the names on that trophy,” Saies said when CYCA Commodore Matt Allen handed the orthopedic surgeon the stunning Tattersall’s Cup.
“This race cannot be won without a great team, a great boat and an ounce of Rolex Sydney Hobart luck,” Saies commented. He went on to say that the Cruising Yacht Club of South Australia, the club he represents, has a proud tradition of trying to field at least one local boat in the race each year.
A sistership to Two True finished second overall and had the protest against Saies been upheld, Mike Welsh’s Victorian entry Wicked would have been the winner.
“I do not want to win a race like this on a protest against a similar boat that sailed a better race,” Mike Welsh said yesterday. Fortunately, he was not put to the test and is very happy with the outcome.
“To us it would be a very hollow victory because they beat us across the line; they beat us fair and square and I seriously would like to see the guys win the race. However, we are quite prepared to accept the trophy if that is how it works out,” Welsh said yesterday.
Ironically, both owners had raced their previous yachts against each other at Geelong Week in Victoria over the past few years, Saies with True North, and Welsh with Alien, both coming up with podium results, but the two did not know each other until yesterday.
The similarities don’t end there. Like Welsh, Saies only purchased his new Beneteau First 40 this year and first took her to Audi Hamilton Island Race Week where she finished third in IRC Division 2.
This is only the second time a Beneteau design has won the race; Michael Spies skippered his Beneteau 40.7, First National Real Estate, to a win in 2003.
Third place overall went to the Sydney 38 Next, chartered by Ian Mason from the host club. A second Sydney 38, Swish, owned and skippered by Steven Proud was fourth.
Of the 95 yachts remaining in the 65th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, only Chris Dawe’s Polaris of Belmont remains at sea, but she is expected at the finish line in Hobart before midnight.