Wild Oats XI's line honours victory confirmed
“We’re back and we’re just very happy to be here,” said Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards after the news that a race committee protest had been dismissed and that the 30.48m supermaxi owned by Bob Oatley could be officially declared line honours winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
20 hours had passed since she crossed the finish line at 8.37pm on Tuesday to an understandably subdued reception on the Hobart waterfront. This afternoon, when she could be declared the line honours winner and receive the JH Illingworth Trophy and a Rolex Yacht-Master watch, the mood was upbeat.
The delayed recognition extends the mortgage that the 30.48 metre Reichel Pugh design has on this race:
- five line honours wins in six years;
- the most consecutive line honours wins; and
- the 2005 triple crown of line honours, the overall win and the race record of one day, 18 hours, 40 minutes and 10 seconds.
The champion supermaxi has only been beaten once across the line in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, by Neville Crichton’s Alfa Romeo last year.
“It's a big deal, a lot of effort goes into the race, the result is a good one and we're very happy," skipper Mark Richards said.
Although he had always been confident he had fully complied with the rules, Richards conceded that he was a very relieved man when the final verdict was announced.
“I’m very relieved,” he said after this afternoon’s trophy presentation. “Protests are never a good thing, especially from the race committee. They had reasons to do what they did but fortunately we’d done our homework, ticked off all the boxes and got out of trouble.
“Juries are very good at making you sweat and they made us sweat today, but commonsense prevailed and the right result was made. It’s a big deal, we had a sleepless night, probably less leading into this than in Bass Strait.
“Two good things came out of this, race officials are very serious about safety and the back-up plans that are in place are working,” Richards added.
90 minutes earlier, after the international jury had dismissed the race committee’s protest against her and a similar one against Niklas Zennström's Ràn, Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Commodore Garry Linacre said justice had been done. “It was the right decision. We'll now sit down at some stage and have a good look at the rule book and see what changes need to be made to the wording in relation to the use of HF (High Frequency) radio.
“That's not to say safety of crews, and the ability of one yachtie to go to the aid of another yachtie in distress, will not always be paramount in the eyes of the race committee. The safety of all boats and competitors remains a top priority. In this case the chair of the race committee felt that the two boats involved had not complied with the race rules and opted for the use of satellite phones.
“The race organisation maintains that HF radio is still to be used as a primary function of communicating between boats and officials until such time as new technology comes along. But there is also a place for satellite phones,” Linacre said.
Wild Oats XI was in danger of becoming the fourth boat to have been first across the line but to have been successfully protested – Jock Muir’s Wild Wave in 1953, Marvin Green’s Nirvana in 1983 and Lawrie Smith’s Rothmans in 1990.