29 Dec 2010

First to cross line but will Wild Oats XV win race?

7:50 am on 29 December 2010

The skipper of Sydney to Hobart provisional line honours winner Wild Oats XI is adamant his yacht will shrug off a protest to claim the trophy for the fifth time.

The 100-foot supermaxi, which has won line honours in four of the past five years, was first to cross the finish line late on Tuesday night in a time of two days, seven hours and 37 minutes, well short of the race record she set in 2005.

But a protest from the race committee could see her disqualified from the race.

Wild Oats, as well as English yacht RAN, allegedly failed to have an operational HF radio as she passed Green Cape on Monday - a compulsory reporting stage at the entrance to Bass Strait.

A five-member international jury will meet at 3pm (NZ time) in Hobart on Wednesday to decide the fate of both boats, with possible sanctions ranging from time penalties to a DNF being recorded.

The traditional trophy and flag presentation in Constitution Dock was put off until Thursday, but the crew were greeted with warm applause and cheers as they stepped off the boat.

Skipper Mark Richards said he was in no doubt the boat would be presented with line honours for the fifth time, while the boat's owner Bob Oatley was just as confident as he greeted his crew saying the protest was a mistake and he's sure the race committee will apologise.

Investec LOYAL trailed Wild Oats home by more than two hours, while Sydney-based Ichi Ban was running third.

Richards says he was certain the boat had reported its position as required, and would provide evidence at the hearing.

Meanwhile, Sydney yacht Victoire led in the race for handicap honours, with a narrow lead over Victorian 40-footer Chutzpah and Ichi Ban.

A total of 16 boats withdrew from this year's race, including former line honours winners Brindabella and Yuuzoo, as well as last year's overall winner Two True.