LINE HONOURS: Wild Oats XI was the first boat into Constitution Dock in one of the most dramatic finishes in Sydney to Hobart history. Picture: AAPWild Oats XIcrossed the finish line first in the 73rd Sydney to Hobart yacht race for a record ninth time, but a potential protest could ruin their celebrations.
LDV Comanche and Wild Oats XI were neck-and-neck in the battle for line honours on Wednesday evening, with Wild Oats taking the lead in the dramatic final stages, arriving at constitution dock in record race time of1 day, 8 hours, 48 minutes and 50 seconds
It was the Mark Richards-skippered boat’s first success since 2014 and came after their past two races ended early due to damage to the supermaxi.
Comanche crossed the line 16 minutes later in second place.
The Jim Cooney skippered race favourite was first to pass Tasman Island -about 40 nautical miles from the finish line -on Wednesday evening at 6pm.
However, Wild Oats went to the lead around 8pm as Comanche became becalmed in the windless conditions.
Progress slowed to a crawl as the wind eased up on their approach up the Derwent River, with only a few hundred metres separating the rival supermaxis.
Comanche indicated it plans to lodge a formal protest against Wild Oats after the boats came perilously close to colliding about 15 minutes into the race on Boxing Day.
The crew raised a protest flag shortly afterwards and will have six hours after finishing to lodge the paperwork with the international jury in Hobart.
“It will likely be a time penalty if there’s a ruling against them but we’ll have to see if there’s a request for a jury yet,” Cruising Yacht Club of Australia commodore John Markos said.
Wild Oats XI chipped away LDV Comanche’s overnight advantage of 20 nautical miles throughout the day as the two frontrunners flew down Tasmania’s east coast powered by a strong north-easterly.
The pair went head-to-headfor long stretches and traded the lead several times.
The existing yacht race record of one day, 13 hours, 31 minutes and 20 seconds–set by Perpetual LOYAL last year -wasbettered by several hours.
Five boats were on pace to better the record, which was improved by almost five hours by Perpetual LOYAL in 2016.
Cooney said on Wednesday morning he thought the wind in the River Derwent would be enough to carry his boat home.
Black Jack was in third place, with InfoTrack-the 2016 record setter when named Perpetual LOYAL–fourth and narrowly ahead of Hong Kong entry Beau Geste.
Jazz Player, Wots Next and Rockall were forced to retire, while Opt2go Scamp was repairing rotor damage.