Wild Oats XI takes its place in Sydney to Hobart history
ROBERT Oatley's magnificent super maxi Wild Oats XI has cemented its place in Sydney to Hobart history with a record eighth line honours victory in the blue water classic after a dour tussle with American entry Comanche.
Skipper Mark Richards brought the 100-foot super boat across the finish line at Hobart's Constitution Dock in two days, two hours, three minutes and 26 seconds after chasing debutant Comanche out of the Sydney Heads on Boxing Day. She broke the finish line in Hobart yesterday afternoon to the cheers of hundreds of spectators lined along the waterfront.
Line honours number eight wiped out the previous best of Morna/Kurrewa IV which achieved the feat seven times during the 1950s with her last in 1960.
Wild Oats XI's 86-year-old owner won the "battle of the billionaires" denying American Jim Clark, the found of Netscape, a stunning debut win, after his hi-tech carbon fibre red and black hulled Comanche had led the 117 strong-fleet for more than 20 hours. The winning tactic came during the night when Wild Oats XI took over the lead from Comanche and extended it, taking full advantage of a high-pressure ridge in the Bass Strait, while the American boat struggled to find wind, losing considerable speed.
In the end it proved a wonder battle between the crews of the 10-year-old, constantly revamped Wild Oats and the more modern and super-designed American rival Comanche.
Richards was beaming with pride following his record win.
"The boys did a wonderful job in overcoming Comanche which led for the first night. I can't believe I'm standing here today," Richards said.
"To win a Hobart is a great honour, but to win line honours for an eighth time - I'm so proud."
Oatley said he feared Comanche heading into the great race because it was "the most modern boat in the world".
"This race is all such a lottery," he said.
"It is very hard to win because of the changing conditions and you never know what's going to happen behind you.
"You can fall in a hole and a boat will come up and sail past you."
Third-placed Rio100 was leading the remainder of the fleet making its way down Tasmania's east coast.The race took its toll with nine of the 117 starters, including prominent entry and 2011 race winner Perpetual Loyal with its celebrity crew with included multiple world boxing champion Danny Green, former Wallaby Phil Waugh and super surfer Sally Fitzgibbons on board, all being forced to withdraw from the race.
It was a tough blow for Perpetual Loyal, which was vying for third place when it suffered hull damage either from the constant pounding of dropping into waves or from, as crew members suggested, hitting something in the water.