Wild Oats begins celebrations in Hobart (AUS)

December 28th, 2005  

Topic: Wild Oats begins celebrations in Hobart (AUS)


Wild Oats XI has begun celebrations after setting a new Sydney to Hobart race record this morning.

Surrounded by about 50 spectator craft and thousands lining the foreshores, the super maxi completed the 628-nautical mile race in a fresh 15 knot north-westerly with an official race time of one day, 18 hours, 40 minutes and 10 seconds.

The previous record set by Nokia in 1999 was one day, 19 hours, 48 minutes and two seconds.

Rival super maxi Alfa Romeo finished second, one hour, 16 minutes and 21 seconds behind Wild Oats XI.

It finished just eight minutes outside Nokia's previous record.

Skandia was expected to be third across the line.

The victory puts Wild Oats XI in the running for a handicap win, potentially making it the first yacht since the inaugural race in 1945 to take out the treble of line and handicap honours, in addition to the race record.

It was not all smooth sailing up the Derwent River for the 30-metre super maxi, however, with the crew having to lower the mainsail just six nautical miles from the finish, after strong winds broke the top batten.

Skipper Mark Richards said he was anxious during the final stages.

"The toughest part of the bloody race is the last bit up the harbour here," he said.

"We blew our mainsail out and had lots of dramas, but we thought it was just too easy going all the way here and something had to go wrong and it did.

"But it doesn't matter, we still finished and broke the record. The boys are very, very happy."

Richards said he does not think the new race record would stand for long, believing a 35-hour race time possible.

"Bigger boats go faster...it's as simple as that, records are there for a reason to see who can get there first," he said. "I'm sure this record can be shattered."

Alfa Romeo skipper Neville Crichton said his crew had made the mistake of going offshore to look for wind off Green Cape on the New South Wales south coast, while Wild Oats XI remained inshore.

"All the weather with our routing we had looked like it was offshore, so we made a mistake there and we were playing catch-up for the rest of the day," he said.

Meanwhile, the 9.7-metre yacht Gillawa was currently in last place and about to pass the south-eastern tip of the mainland.

The boat is near Green Cape and about to enter Bass Strait.

Race media centre spokesman Bruce Montgomery said Gillawa was only one third of the way to Hobart.

"She's done about 200 miles of the course, so she's till got two thirds to do about 425 nautical miles," he said.

"She's still expected to get to Hobart about New Years Eve."

Gillawa will follow other slower yachts through Bass Strait and will head into gale force winds tending westerly, then south-westerly, as the crews batten down for the bash into the Strait.