With a record breaking finish, Wild Oats XI crossed the finish line for the 2012 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race in front of hundreds of excited spectators. Wild Oats XI crossed the finish line at 0922 local time, giving her an unofficial record about 18 minutes faster than the one she set in 2005.
The super-maxi (100 feet) started off the race in 30 knot winds and quickly pulled away from most of the fleet. As always in Sydney Harbor for the Boxing Day event, the harbor was lined with shore-side spectators as well as hundreds of non-racers out to see the boats at the start.
Wild Oats XI’s finish with the record firmly in place made her a six time winner of the race. Her previous wins were 2005-2008 and 2010. In this edition her closest rival was Ragamuffin Loyal (formerly Investec Loyal) who reported being approximately 50 miles from the finish as Wild Oats XI captured line honors. In the last edition the two finished only3 minutes, 58 minutes apart, but with Investec Loyal taking the win.
With the strong winds at the start of the race, it appeared there could be a chance for the line record to be broken. However, light to non-existent winds overnight appeared to threaten that possibility. Later in the race the winds came back with sufficient strength to propel the leading boats at a faster pace. As Wild Oats XI approached the finish line, the winds stayed the course, and with a Code Zero sail flying, she had enough speed to break her previous record.
This was a sweet win for Wild Oats XI. At the start of the race, controversy swirled as Grant Wharington’s super-maxi Wild Thing (Wild Oats XI’s prime competition) was disqualified just prior to the race start. Wild Oats XI owner Bob Oatley and Skipper Mark Richards wanted to get Line Honors and set a new course record if the winds held, and both of the wishes were fulfilled.
In the meantime, after the race start, Wharington announced that he and the crew were now looking to set a new course time record. The boat is prepped to make the sail, not in a race but in a quest for the speed title. Wharington and his crew are watching the weather patterns to pick a time for the maximum winds running along the course line.
With 76 boats crossing the starting line, the race appeared to be one of good sailing for those prepared, joined with a fair amounting of beating overnight for some of the smaller boats. Two boats, Living Doll and Primitive Cool pulled out of the race with minor equipment problems. The rest of the fleet were spread out over a 250 mile swath of water, still en route to Hobart. The goal for the soon to be finishers is to capture Handicapped Positions as well as to be in Hobart early enough to see the New Year’s Fireworks.
Have fun, be safe and go boating!