Sydney - LDV
Comanche was named the line honours winner of the Sydney to Hobart
yacht race in dramatic circumstances on Thursday when Wild Oats XI was
stripped of the title over a near-collision.
Wild Oats crossed the line in record time late Wednesday, but an
international jury handed the crew a one-hour penalty after Comanche
protested over an incident between the 100-footers early in the race.
It is just the third time the result of the annual race, which has
been held since 1945, was decided by a protest, and the first since
Comanche owner and skipper Jim Cooney said the complaint was about a
near-miss involving his super-yacht and Wild Oats, which appeared to
tack too late when exiting Sydney Heads on Tuesday.
An international jury convened on Thursday heard evidence from both
crews before finding in favour of Comanche, saying Wild Oats had "failed
to keep clear (of Comanche) while tacking".
The jury's chairman John Rountree said Wild Oats also did not comply
with the rules requiring the super-yacht to make a two-turn penalty
after breaking the initial rule.
"Wild Oats XI is... penalised a time penalty of one hour to be added to her elapsed time," he told reporters in Hobart.
Comanche finished 26 minutes and 34 seconds behind Wild Oats' 1 day, 8 hours,
48 minutes and 50 seconds, enough to seal victory after the one-hour penalty was
Comanche's time of 1 day, 9 hours, 15 minutes, 24 seconds now stands as the new
race record, breaking the previous time set last year by several hours.
Cooney said the jury's decision was "an enormous relief... to feel that we did deserve to win".
"I didn't expect to protest in order to win the race," he said,
adding that the "rules are there to protect people's lives... and if we
can't rely on that it's a difficulty in the sport".
Wild Oats skipper Mark Richards said his crew was "very disappointed" but that they would "take it on the chin".
The protest denied Wild Oats its ninth line honours victory in the 628-nautical mile (1 163km) bluewater classic.
Richards denied the situation had been dangerous, but added that he could "see the jury's point of view".
"The whole situation was under control. It was just one of those
tricky situations in a yacht race and that's what happens, and we all
paid the price."
The decision is a blow to Wild Oats' owners, the Oatley family, after
the super-yacht was forced to retire from the last two races.
"We'd just like to congratulate Jim Cooney and his crew for their success, and move forward," owner Sandy Oatley said.
This is the second time in three years that Comanche has won line
honours, although the 2015 triumph was under the ownership of Netscape
founder Jim Clark and wife Kristy Hinze.
Cooney purchased the supermaxi from American Clark just two weeks
ago, and had handled Comanche only a small number of times before the
start of this year's race on Boxing Day.
On board with the Sydneysider was his daughter Julia and son James.
Attention now turns to the Tattersall Cup awarded to the overall
winner, with Matt Allen's new TP52 Ichi Ban among the favourites.
Smaller boats Patrice (Ker 46), Concubine (Mills 45) and Chutzpah (Caprice 40) were also in the running.
The handicap honour goes for the vessel that performs best according
to size, giving smaller boats a chance to prove their worth in what is
regarded as one of the world's toughest yacht races.
"This is the best Hobart race I have ever done... I've never seen
conditions like it," owner-skipper Allen said, after Ichi Ban finished
early on Thursday.
"I think the breeze is lightening off though, and they (the other
Tattersall Cup challengers) won't come home as fast as we did."