Wild Oats sets Sydney-Hobart race record

Last updated 10:29 28/12/2012
Supermaxi yacht Wild Oats XI leads the 2012 Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
Reuters

IN FRONT: Supermaxi yacht Wild Oats XI leads the 2012 Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

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Sydney to Hobart race history was written this morning when the Mark Richards-skippered Wild Oats XI crossed the finish line in record time to claim her sixth win.

To beat her 2005 race record of one day 18 hours 40 minutes and 10 seconds, she needed to finish before 9.40.10 am (NZ time) today.

The crew sailed over the finish line at 9.22am, according to unofficial estimates - shaving about 18 minutes off the record time.

It was a tense finish for the maxi as she chased whatever breeze there was in the Derwent River flanked by a large spectator fleet.

It was not until about four nautical miles to go when she put up her Code Zero sail that the record looked probable.

Wild Oats XI looked set to finish in record time late on Thursday, although Richards and her crew knew those chances hinged on the conditions overnight.

The crew - and in particular Richards and Oatley - should be in jubilant spirits with a sixth line honours win after being pipped for the victory by Investec Loyal (now Ragamuffin Loyal) last year when the winning margin between the two boats was three minutes eight seconds.

The line honours win adds to victories in 2005-08 and 2010.

Earlier, the Wild Oats crew had reportedly all but given up on a new race record after being slowed by overnight winds.

But, as tactician Iain Murray had predicted, Oats picked up the forecast southwesterlies and increased its speed as it tacked along the River Derwent.

"It was close, only just," Richards said of the race record. "2005 was a great year, but this year was even better.

"It was a very tricky night, the breeze died on us. But we made a lot of sail changes and the guys did a great job."

A handful of spectator craft were on hand to escort the Bob Oatley-owned boat to Constitution Dock, where a crowd lined the shore.

Ragamuffin Loyal was the next boat due to finish and was 50 nautical miles behind Wild Oats.

NSW yacht Jazz led the handicap standings ahead of Calm and Secret Men's Business.

Two boats retired yesterday, the first casualties of the race, leaving 74 of the fleet still competing.

Last year's handicap runner-up Living Doll pulled out with a broken rudder and was expected in Eden, NSW, around midday.

Victorian boat Primitive Cool quit with a damaged mainsail and was also heading to Eden.

As Wild Oats XI started their celebrations New Zealand's Akatea and Rikki still had a considerable distance to cover.

The Gary Lewis-skippered Akatea was 60 nautical miles east of Flinders Island with 262.02 nm to travel and 17th in the race for line honours.

The Auckland-based Cookson 50 was also seventh in division one and was expected to complete the race on Sunday night (NZT).

Rikki, under the control of Kerikeri's Ray Haslar, was 23rd and also positioned off Flinders Island with 280.56 nm to go. The 2011-built Reichel Pugh 42 was ninth in division two. It should also reach Hobart on late Sunday.  

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Meanwhile, Ragamuffin's time could be affected by an international jury hearing after the 2011 line honours victor jumped the start in Sydney.

The crew will front the jury at 6pm (NZ time) in Hobart.

- Fairfax News Australia and AAP

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