Val Oatley described Wild Oats XI’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race line honours victory perfectly alongside the dock in Hobart this morning: “Three years of misery to this moment,” and you could not wipe the smile from her face or that of her sons, Sandy and Ian, as they waited for their super maxi to moor alongside Kings Pier.
Three years of trauma for the Wild Oats family when the yacht retired from the 2015 race with a torn main followed by Bob Oatley’s death in January 2016. Another retirement in 2016, this time with hydraulic ram issues. Then came last year’s much-publicised finish when Wild Oats XI was penalised one hour after an incident with Comanche and lost her line honours crown and a new race record to Jim Cooney’s ‘aircraft carrier’.
This year’s victory makes it a new record of nine line honours for Wild Oats XI, which broke the seven years of line honours stranglehold of Kurrewa/Morna in 2014 with her eighth line honours crown.
Perennial skipper Mark ‘Ricko’ Richards generously handed the helm over to the Late Bob Oatley’s grandson, Daniel (Ian Oatley’s son), on his third Sydney Hobart on the family yacht, before they crossed the finish line after gybing all the way up the River under Code Zero.
Wild Oats XI won the hard-fought battle between four of the five super maxis entered in the race. Until 6.30am this morning, the four were still locked in a tight fight for honours - just 4 nautical miles separating them before Wild Oats XI came into her own.
Peter Harburg’s Black Jack from Queensland was second over the line at 8.35.06am, followed by Comanche at 8.36.09am, after the two went gybe for gybe to the finish after rounding the Iron Pot. Christian Beck’s InfoTrack finished at 08.51.17am.
Never before in the history of the race have we witnessed four yachts fight for supremacy throughout the entire race. It kept us all on tenterhooks the most exciting Sydney Hobart line honours stoush since Bob Bell’s Condor of Bermuda beat Jack Rooklyn’s Apollo over the finish line by seven seconds in 1982.