Bob Oatley’s 100-footer tonight took line honours for the fifth time, but victory is only provisional

Wild Oats XI, Bob Oatley’s 100-footer tonight took line honours for the fifth time in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, but her victory is provisional with the boat facing potential disqualification for breaching, albeit unintentionally, a major safety rule of the ocean classic.

Surrounded by media and spectator boats, the giant maxi yacht swept up the River Derwent half an hour before sunset on a rather dull and cool summer’s evening in Hobart.

With the north-westerly breeze hanging in, Wild Oats XI outpaced earlier predictions of a 10pm to midnight finish – much to the appreciation of media cameramen on low flying helicopters and on media boats. She made a magnificent sight, powering to windward past the John Garrow Light off lower Sandy Bay and crossed the finish line at 8:37pm this evening, Tuesday 28 December.

With victory in sight, skipper Mark Richards still called for a headsail change as she passed Sandy Bay Point to lift her boatspeed.

Ashore, there was deep apprehension among the Wild Oats XI support team as only three and a half hours earlier the Race Committee headed by Tim Cox had advised the fleet by radio, and in the case of Wild Oats XI and the British yacht Ran, by satellite phone, that both yachts were being protested for failing to make the mandatory call by HF radio when abeam of Green Cape on the south coast of NSW.

For the Race Committee this is considered one of the most serious breaches of a safety rule introduced in the wake of the tragic 1998 Sydney Hobart – the rules of the race specifically state that every yacht must report in by HF radio that the boat and its crew is in proper shape to make the crossing of Bass Strait.

It appears that neither Wild Oats XI or Ran did this, apparently because their HF radios where not operative or had insufficient signal, did not report by radio but satellite telephone.

‘I advised them that a satellite phone call did not meet the rules, which we regard as one of the vital safety rules of this race,’ Tim Cox said.

Neither Cox or the Commodore of the CYCA would speculate on the decision of the International Jury which will meet in Hobart at 1300 hours tomorrow, but it is understood a penalty could range from outright disqualification to a time penalty.

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