The 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race line honours podium filled this morning when Bob Oatley's Wild Oats XI and Mike Slade's ICAP Leopard finished in second and third positions.Wild Oats XI finished at five minutes after midnight, two hours and three minutes behind her Reichel/Pugh 100 near-sister yacht Neville Crichton's Alfa Romeo. Leopard, a Farr 100, finished at 0545, five hours and 40 minutes behind Wild Oats XI.
Next to finish, at 0734, was another 100ft maxi, the Greg Elliott-designed Investec Loyal (Sean Langman), which previously raced for New Zealand owners as Maximus.
Fifth home, at 0927, was Niklas Zennstrom's Ran from the UK, a Judel/Volijk-designed 72-footer that was overall handicap winner in the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race.
Ran has a chance of winning the race's major trophy, the Tattersall's Cup, for the first yacht on IRC corrected time. She has certainly beaten Alfa Romeo, which led the IRC overall standings for a time yesterday, denying Crichton the rare handicap/line honours double.
Wild Oats' Mark Richards was gracious in defeat. "It was a tactical race and we never got a look in really," Richards said. "They had a little edge on us on the first night and the next morning we were in a big parking lot together. They got out first and put 30 miles on us before we knew what had happened."
Mike Slade had an historical perspective of the close three-way battle of the maxis: "When Napoleon turned up at Waterloo he knew he was in for a bad day, he had a bad day at the office didn't he? I've been a bit like that. It was a fantastic race and well done Alfa, bloody marvellous."
Slade said that Leopard had gambled by sailing farther offshore than Alfa and Oats down the east coast of Australia rather than sailing in Alfa's wake. "We went offshore because there was no point in covering Alfa's tracks; she had about 20 miles on us and we just got locked out. We had about four shut-downs and it was as frustrating as hell. We sat there for hours, watching them go away. That cost us. We got punished."
Rounding Tasman Island was the worst Slade had experienced. "There was no wind and appalling seas; really nasty because it's a lee shore, you've got no steerage because there's no wind, but the seas were huge and that took us a couple of hours.
"Alfa and Oats had already gone round. The rich get rich and the poor get poorer, that's what the game's all about. So it was a shocker but we loved every minute of it. We will be back to do another one I think - the boat's a glutton for punishment."
Ran, after performing well in the fresh upwind work on the first night, parked in calms before zooming back into handicap contention with a blistering run on the new nor'-west breeze off Flinders Island.
Ran's owner/skipper Niklas Zennstrom said: "The race at times was frustrating, we got parked up. Yesterday afternoon we had a fantastic run, we were reaching at up to 24 knots of boat speed, averaging 18 and 19 knots. It was excellent sailing.
"This morning was also very good; last night we had a few stops and goes. But we are happy with how the boat performed on corrected time and we will have to wait and see how the other boats are going on handicap.
"At times it looked really, really bad for us and really good for the small boats, but that's how it is. All you can do is sail as good as you can and avoid making as many mistakes as possible. I don't think we made too many mistakes."
Ran's tactician Adrian Stead said that after riding the nor'-wester fast, Ran hit a light spot last evening, 20 miles northeast of Maria Island. "We got through that and sailed the last bit up here pretty well, very conscious that 10:20 was our deadline to beat Alfa," he said.
With six yachts finished, and five yachts retired, there are 89 yachts still racing.
The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race fleet has crews representing the USA, UK, New Zealand, Spain, the Netherlands, and New Caledonia as well as every Australian state.
Listen to audio of Ran owner/skipper Niklas Zennstrom and navigator Steve Hayles talk about the race and their prospects for a handicap win.