Sydney to Hobart race 2017: Protest throws shadow over Wild Oats XI success

Records were broken and protests made in a dramatic conclusion to the Sydney-Hobart yacht race that was fought out be...

Posted: Dec. 27, 2017 10:00 AM
Updated: Dec. 28, 2017 1:56 AM

Records were broken and protests made in a dramatic conclusion to the Sydney-Hobart yacht race that was fought out between super maxis Wild Oats XI and LDV Comanche.

Wild Oats finished the grueling 628-nautical mile dash from Sydney down the east coast of Australia, across the infamous Bass Strait to Hobart, Tasmania in a record time of one day eight hours, 48 minutes and 50 seconds, taking four hours off Perpetual Loyal's time last year.

But the owner of second-placed Comanche -- a boat that's been nicknamed "the aircraft carrier" -- which crossed the line 26 minutes after Wild Oats, says he's lodging a protest following a near collision at the start of the race in Sydney Harbour.

"Yes, I'm going to pursue it," Comanche owner Jim Cooney told Wild Oats' captain Mark Richards on the quay, according to official race website.

"It was a port/starboard infringement," added Cooney. "We were the right-of-way boat: they were the give-way boat.

"We hailed starboard; they were the give-way boat and they left it until far too late to tack and they tacked right in our water. We had to take evasive action or possibly take both of us out of the race.

"We could have taken their backstay out; they could have broken our bowsprit."

Black Jack crossed the line in third and was also an hour inside the 2016 finish time record.

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'Totally innocent'

LDV Comanche's protest will be heard by an international jury in the next two days, but Richards said he's "not concerned at all" and that his team was "totally innocent."

"It is not the America's Cup, it is the Hobart," Richards told the official race website. "The rules are different."

Admitting that Cooney had the "superior boat, the most powerful boat by a country mile," Richards said the key to Wild Oats taking line honors had been its ability to stay close to LDV Comanche before reaching Tasmania's Derwent River.

"We were in touch coming around Tasman Island and all of a sudden we saw a dream come true: a Derwent River with no wind in it.

"Nothing comes for free, all that power doesn't come for free and in the Derwent the one thing you don't need is power."

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Oats' tactician Iain Murray added: We knew we would lose at the beginning of the race; we thought we could catch up when it got really windy, and we did, and we knew the Derwent was going to be tricky."

"We had issues with torn sails, but it is all a part of it. These big boats chew through the gear in these conditions.

"It was their turn, then it was our turn, then theirs, and as it turned out the final chapter was our turn."

Lightning

Ahead of the 73rd edition of the classic "bluewater" race, the 100ft super maxi Wild Oats -- owned by Sandy Oatley, son of the late businessman and wine maker Bob Oatley -- was struck by lightning in Sydney, damaging a number of onboard navigational computers.

The bolt from an electrical storm hit the 45-meter high carbon mast of the eight-time line honors winner, which was ashore in a cradle at Woolwich dock undergoing pre-race checks.

Race favorite Comanche was berthed next to Wild Oats but escaped any damage.

Two years ago Wild Oats shredded its mainsail in fierce winds while sailing down Australia's east coast in the Sydney-Hobart.

Last year it suffered damage to the hydraulics used to operate the canting keel and had to retire from the race.

Wilds Oats XI takes line honors

LDV Comanche launches protest

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