Wild Thing skipper Grant Wharington called for the documentation process for the Sydney to Hobart yacht race to be overhauled after his boat was ruled out three hours before Wild Oats XI made a blistering start to the bluewater classic yesterday.
Shortly after 6pm (Sydney time), Wild Oats XI held a 2-nautical-mile lead over Ragamuffin Loyal, having blitzed everyone with her start out of Sydney Harbour.
Ragamuffin Loyal broke the start in the 15-20 knot southerly breezes, but wasn't penalised as the procedure for recalling a boat was not followed by officials.
However, the big talking point of the day was the race committee's decision to exclude Wharington's revamped super maxi, which had failed to lodge documentation on construction requirements. "The race committee has no option but to not accept the entry of Wild Thing," Cruising Yacht Club of Australia commodore Howard Piggott said.
A devastated Wharington slammed race director Tim Cox for his attitude towards the big boats following Wild Thing's exclusion.
He pointed out Cox had made unsuccessful post-race protests against the last two line honours winners, Wild Oats XI (2010) and Investec Loyal (2011).
"I don't know whether there's any kind of conspiracy going on but, unfortunately, I think this particular race director seems to be a serial offender of trying to get big boats out of the race," Wharington said.
Asked about whether he would look at further action, Wharington chose his words carefully but didn't rule it out.
"The principal race officer has the right to reject any entry, so I'm not quite sure where that will lead," Wharington said.
"We will obviously be looking at our options down the track but, clearly, we feel like we've been targeted this time."
Yesterday's episode completed a dramatic decade for Wharington, who has experienced a mixture of highs and lows in that period.
On the plus side, while skippering Skandia he logged a line honours win in 2003, a second in 2008 and thirds in 2005 and 2006.
The lowlights were three retirements and a collision with a media boat in 2010 while at the helm of Wild Thing when she still finished fifth.
Wharington was sure he completed all the necessary paperwork after yesterday's final weather briefing and returned to his boat and switched off his phone to deliver his own pre-race briefing to his crew.
"As everybody turned their phones back just before 11 o'clock, hundreds of messages from everybody saying ‘its all over the press - we've been knocked out' and we were absolutely dumbfounded," Wharington said.
He rejected an offer for Wild Thing to start behind the second line of boats.
"The whole anomaly is you are safe enough to be out there and involved under our umbrella, but you are not safe enough to get a result. It seems a bit odd to me," Wharington said.
He said the documentation process for next year needed to be more rigid, accurate and professional and hinted at a whispering campaign against his boat from other competitors.
"I think that there's no doubt that the current situation needs to change," Wharington said.
"The way that the race director gets on the phone and calls people individually and says ‘I've heard this' or ‘you've done that' or whatever.
"That's all speculation. It needs to stop - it needs to be very simple, clear in writing on specific dates that don't vary, that don't get added an extra day, or a week or whatever.
"They've made the example of us this year, but there's a lot more boats in the fleet than just us that didn't comply on the day this year.
"There needs to be rigid dates that compliance is made or you are crossed off the list at that time." AAP
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