Wild Oats XI has claimed a record-equalling seventh line honours in the 2013 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, arriving in Constitution Harbour in front of a crowd of thousands.
Watch as a media official jumps into the roiling sea at the end of her shift in the 2013 Sydney to Hobart.
CHAMPION supermaxi Wild Oats XI has blasted her way to a record-equalling seventh line-honours win in the 69th edition of the Sydney to Hobart.
Bob Oatley’s record-equalling yacht did it in style, too – hitting speeds in excess of 50km/h as she powered into Hobart just before sunset.
The spectacular daylight finish was one of the most memorable in recent years, with thousands lining the foreshores of the Derwent River and flocking to Constitution Dock to greet the 100-footer on her arrival.
The yacht sailed across the finish line with three reefs in her main sail after hitting tremendous speeds in the final approach to the Derwent River.
Behind her on a power boat was proud owner Oatley, 86, waving to his crew as they raced to history.
The Mark Richards-skippered Wild Oats now owns seven line-honours trophies, two overall titles and two race records to become the most successful yacht in the history of the Australian classic.
Her win equals the record of the yacht Morna/Kurrewa IV, which won seven races in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.
Perpetual LOYAL and her crew of celebrities finished around 10pm and the 100-footer Ragamuffin, skippered by the oldest man in the race, 86-year-old Syd Fischer, was on course to dock at midnight.
“It is just sensational, our best ever win,” Richards said.
“The competition for this race this year was the best. It’s very special.”
Oatley also rated the line-honours victory as the best of the seven.
“It’s a piece of history, that’s always special,” Oatley said.
“This boat is just fantastic and she had more to give, for sure.”
Tactician Iain Murray, the race director of the recent America’s Cup and onboard for all of Wild Oats’ triumphs, agreed.
“You get asked that every year but this one does rate,” he said.
“Having the other yachts, such good yachts makes it very special.”
Wild Oats XI stamped her authority on the 628 nautical mile race from the start, winning the race to Sydney Heads.
A decision by Perpetual Loyal not to pursue a protest over an incident soon after the start meant the result of this year’s race was decided on the water rather than the jury room.
The champion yacht lead down the NSW coast before Anthony Bell and his team overtook Wild Oats XI before entering Bass Strait.
Wild Oats XI then took back the lead around 2pm on Friday with the yachts passing within 300m of each other.
“We came within nine miles of them early today but they just skipped away again, ” Bell told The Daily Telegraph.
Last night hundreds of boats took to the Derwent River to greet Wild Oatsand honour her sailing into the history books.
But her time of two days and six hours seven minutes 27 seconds was well outside the race record of one day 18 hours 23 minutes and 12 seconds set in 2012.
The multi-million dollar yacht was launched in 2005 and took the first of race wins just 11 days later.
She has been beaten only twice, by Alfa Romeo in 2009 and Investec Loyalin 2011.
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From Friday: THE oldest sailor to race to Hobart and a man who grew up on a chicken farm have emerged as the most likely roadblocks to Wild Oats XI claiming a record-equalling seventh line-honours win in the Sydney to Hobart today.
As the Mark Richards-skippered Wild Oatsand Anthony Bell’s Perpetual Loyal slugged it out last night, octogenarian Syd Fischer (Ragamuffin) and Grant Wharington (Wild Things) moved within striking distance of the leaders as they raced through Bass Strait.
Aiding both Ragamuffin and Wild Thing’s bids for an upset victory is the fact both yachts have aboard special sails they are hopeful of using in the final stretch of the line-honours race.
“This is one hell of a race and it really could go all the way to the line,” Bell said.
“We aren’t looking that flash right now but things can change, things can happen and we will be fighting to the end.”
Fischer, 86, and already planning to be part of the fleet next year, last claimed line honours in 1990.
Wharington, who grew up on a farm but has spent most of his life on the water, won in 2003. Each has positioned his yacht to take advantage of any slip made by the frontrunners or even the slightest change in the weather, which last night favoured Richards and his crew.
Bell will also be hoping for a change in fate after his yacht was overtaken by Wild Oats late yesterday thanks to ultralight winds on the racetrack.
“We are going to every playbook and we are not giving up the fight until it’s over,” said Bell, who is hoping today’s forecast stronger winds will be fresher than anticipated.
Hong Kong businessman Karl Kwok’s 80-footer Beau Gesteis also still in the mix.
Meteorologist Roger Badham said the key to victory this year was how the yachts dealt with light winds overnight – and pockets of no wind – and then fast running conditions to the finish.
Wild Oats XIwill equal the record ofMorna/Kurrawa IVif she takes her seventh line-honours victory in the Sydney to Hobart.
At 11.30pm last night, she was 20 nautical miles in front of Perpetual Loyal, withRagamuffinalmost 12 nautical miles further back. Giacomowas 55 nautical miles behind Wild Oats, with Black Jack in fifth place, 53 nautical miles astern.
The Bob Oatley yacht won the race on debut in 2005 and is the only yacht in history to have claimed the race record twice – in 2005 and in 2012 when she covered the course in one day 18 hours 23 minutes and 12 seconds.
The race for the overall honours is still wide open with the early money on a bigger yacht claiming the handicap prize over one of the smaller boats in the fleet.
While the line-honours winner is expected to be docked in Hobart by late today, the majority of the fleet will still be sailing south and battling a nasty sou’westerly front packing a punch.
Sailors may have to deal with 50-knot gusts down the east coast of Tasmania.
Last night, Wilperina, the smallest yacht in the fleet at 34-foot became the third casualty of the race. The immediate reason for her retirement was unknown.
Just before 2pm yesterday,
Wild Oats XI
reclaimed the lead, coming from 13 nautical miles behind to again assume the leader’s role in the southbound ocean classic.
“We have just taken them,” Wild Oats navigator Tom Addis told The Daily Telegraph.
“We passed them approximately 300m away.”
It set the scene for a great battle in Bass Strait between the two frontrunners.
In the early hours of Friday morning, Perpetual LOYALhad established a 10 nautical mile lead overWild Oats XIin light wind conditions.
But Wild Oats XImade steady inroads into that gap as the morning progressed, closing within three miles of the frontrunner, which was 44 nautical miles south east of Gabo Island off the Victorian coast.
A crewman aboard Wild Oats told The Daily Telegraph the yacht had sailed into a major wind hole off the NSW far south coast that had seen her concede her early lead toPerpetual LOYALduring the night.
But around midday the Mark Richards-skippered champion was back up there with her rival with the pair leading the 91-strong fleet into Bass Strait.
The 2013 race was billed as a thriller and it is living up to its pre-race hype with more than seven yachts still in the mix to claim the fastest time honours in this year’s race.
These include the New Zealand 70-footer Giacomo, which early Friday was in third place and leading the race handicap overall despite being 30-foot smaller than the fleet headliners, Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin, the Queensland yacht Black Jack and Hong Kong’sBeau Geste.
Round the world navigator Adrienne Cahalan, aboard the 55-footer Wedgetail, said the conditions at sea were pleasant but very light on the opening night.
“It is sunny and warm and a nice change to the normal wet and windy and bumpy approach to Bass Strait,” she said.
From Thursday, the pre-race prediction of Perpetual LOYAL skipper and owner Anthony Bell that navigators would play an important part in the race appeared spot on.
After an incident-filled start on Sydney Harbour, Wild Oats XI was hounded by a group of rivals as she sailed down the NSW south coast before surrendering her lead.
In a boost for Wild Oats XI, Bell and his team on Perpetual LOYAL revealed they had lowered their protest flag over an incident just after the start.
This means there is no protest against Wild Oats, which could impact on her race result.
“We’ve had a meeting and decided not to proceed with the protest,” Bell said.
“At first we thought we had been fouled, but in a sense we had not.”
The early leading pack included the four supermaxis Perpetual LOYAL, Wild Oats XI, Ragamuffin 100 and Wild Thing; new 80-foot boat Beau Geste and the Volvo 70s Giacomo and Black Jack.
But the news was not all good in the early afternoon, with the fleet reduced to 92 following the retirement of Audi Sunshine Coast (mast damage) and Dodo (torn mainsail).
The fleet was making slow work of the 628 nautical mile race because of headwinds but sailors were optimistic their journey south would speed up overnight when more favourable nor’easterlies hit the fleet.
Skipper Eric Holden, aboard the clipper round the world race leader Henri Lloyd, reported that conditions at sea were pleasant after a hectic start.
“It was organised chaos as usual,” said the Canadian who is skippering one of the 12 70-footers using the Sydney to Hobart as a leg of their round the world event.
“The conditions are fine and no one has any problems. We are chugging along quite nicely.”
The protest, retirements, and the thrilling early duel between Wild Oats XI and Perpetual LOYAL combined to make it the most eventful and exciting start of recent times.
Cloudy skies gave way to a spectacular and sunny start to the 69th edition of the race, with Wild Oats winning the honour of leading the fleet up Sydney Harbour and out to sea.
Rival supermaxi and race debutante Perpetual LOYAL looked to have the inside running on Wild Oats XI approaching the first mark.
Perpetual LOYAL seemed to hesitate, with some commentators suggesting she might have been confused over which marking buoy to round.
Wild Oats XI, going for a record-equalling seventh line honours title, swept past the Sydney to Hobart rookie to be first to exit Sydney Harbour and turn south, followed by new 80-foot Hong Kong yacht Beau Geste and then Perpetual LOYAL.
Perpetual LOYAL raised a protest flag soon after, though the reason for it wasn’t immediately clear.
The race fleet was quickly reduced by two with Audi Sunshine Coast and Dodo retiring.
Queensland 50-footer Audi Sunshine Coast was forced out inside the first 30 minutes with rig damage, completing an unfortunate double. It was also the first boat out of last month’s Cabbage Tree Island Race.
“The code zero masthead fitting failed and the halyard tore down the side of the mast to the hounds fitting,” owner and skipper Rod Jones said.
“I felt it wasn’t prudent to continue.
“I feel subdued, very disappointed, but the world moves on.”
Sydney-based 52-footer Dodo had to pull out with mainsail damage.
Fears of a rainy start to the race were allayed, as the sun broke through around an hour before the start and the fleet set sail in 15 to 18 knot southerly winds.
Supermaxi Ragamuffin 100 was right up there alongside Wild Oats XI and Perpetual LOYAL at the start.
The 1997 line-honours winner, maxi Brindabella, broke the start and had to turn back and go around again.
Thousands jumped aboard an array of vessels to be close to the action at the start, with the harbour foreshore crammed with spectators keen to farewell the fleet at the start of their annual trek south.
“It is just so exciting, I cannot wait,” said Grace Kennedy, making her debut aboard Faceboat Sailors with disABILITIES.
Wild Thing crew member Kelly Mathews dials in from the Pacific Ocean to share her experiences from night one of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
While Kennedy and the other sailors in the race will enjoy some fast downwind sailing tonight, they and other mid-sized yachts will be clobbered by a big front late Saturday night which comes with huge gusts and 4-5m seas.
While there have been reports of 12m seas they are unlikely to eventuate on the racecourse, with the fleet likely to tuck in close to the coastline to avoid the worst conditions as they sail towards the finish line on the Derwent River.
“I doubt if any of the boats will be seeing that where they are,” top maritime weather specialist Roger “Clouds” Badham said.