As a 98-footer, Wild Oats XI scored the treble of line honours, overall win and race record in 2005, the year winemaker Bob Oatley launched her. She went on to take line honours again in 2006, 2007, 2008 and in 2010 and 2012 as a 100-footer, when she scored the treble again, breaking her own race record in the time of 1 day 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds.
This time, the super maxi finished in 2 days 6 hours 7 minutes and 27 seconds, Richards and his mostly long term crew (in fact seven from the 2005 crew are aboard) outside their record by more than 11 hours. They faced the toughest opposition of their Rolex Sydney Hobart career, having to take on seven boats capable of beating them, in particular, Anthony Bell’s Perpetual LOYAL, touted as the fastest super maxi in the world, along with Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin 100, which Bell sailed as Investec LOYAL to line honours victory over Wild Oats XI in 2011.
Others that challenged them from the beginning included the two VOR 70s; Jim Delegat’s Giacomo from New Zealand and Peter Harburg’s Black Jack from Queensland, along with Karl Kwok’s much talked about brand new 80ft Beau Geste from Hong Kong and Grant Wharington’s 100ft Wild Thing from Queensland.
At 1715hrs, Wild Oats XI was reefed down and carrying a small headsail in Storm Bay, averaging speeds of 12-17 knots, keeping Perpetual LOYAL at bay. Bell had his boat blistering along down the Tasmanian coast at 28.2 knots, but it was too late, although he did close the gap by over 20 miles since 1400hrs today, having earlier led the line honours winner in light airs.
At 1735hrs AEDT, Wild Oats XI had just 22 miles to reach the finish line off Castray Esplanade in Hobart, with her boat speed at 19.3 knots, beating into a fresh north-easterly breeze. Richards kept the yacht going, the wind gods smiling down again, delivering enough wind in the River Derwent for him to keep the boat speed up around 9.2-11.5 knots.
Dockside, while waiting for his boat to tie up, owner Bob Oatley said: “Hallelujah Ricko, Hallelujah.” Oatley said: “It was a very difficult race. We lost the lead on the first night out and then picked it up again and improved on it. The boat has a great future and more wins…”
By Di Pearson, RSHYR Media