Relief for Wild Oats
IT was a nervous wait but Wild Oats XI’s ninth Sydney to Hobart line honours victory is secure after a protest against the yacht was thrown out.
The great ocean race descended into controversy for the second year running when the race’s regulatory body decided to investigate a claim by runner-up Black Jack that Wild Oats XI’s Automatic Identification System wasn’t operational.
IT was a blow to the integrity of the Wild Oats XI team but skipper Mark Richards was over the moon yesterday when a protest that could have cost his boat victory in the Sydney-Hobart for the second year running was thrown out.
A five-member international jury took about 90 minutes to decide the protest had no legs, much to the delight of the Wild Oats XI crew. The champion supermaxi claimed a record ninth line honours crown when it sailed across the line at 8.07am on a postcard perfect Hobart day on Friday, beating fellow supermaxis Black Jack, Comanche and Infotrack to the punch.
“Common sense has prevailed,” Richards said of yesterday’s decision.
“This is a family, and a team of integrity.
“We go to the utmost lengths to do everything by the rules, sail by the rules.
“It’s just a shame that this came about.
“When you come from a team of true integrity it’s a big deal, it’s a knock on the chin for us personally.
“We totally respect the decision and we can now move on and celebrate the win – time for a cold Cascade.”
After losing last year’s race to Comanche on a protest, Wild Oats XI’s line honours win this year was also thrown under a cloud.
Black Jack’s owner Peter Harburg told the SydneyHobart’s race committee that the automatic identification system on Wild Oats XI had been off for the entire race.
For the first time this year, it was mandatory for every yacht to carry an AIS, and teams had to be transmitting for the full race.
The race committee decided there was enough evidence to support a protest, but the jury disagreed.
“The protest has been
deemed invalid,” chairman of the international jury, Russell Green said.
“Shortly after finishing, the owner of Black Jack [Peter Harburg] submitted a report to the race committee alleging the AIS of Wild Oats had not transmitted throughout the race.
“Prior to the report the race committee had no knowledge of an issue with Wild Oats XI’s AIS.
“The race committee subsequently submitted the pro- test, and the conclusion we came to was the race committee’s investigation and protest arose from the report of Black Jack, a competitor in the race and therefore a person with a conflict of interest within the meaning of the racing rules of sailing.
“The race committee’s investigation was prudent, however in these circumstances for the protest to be valid, a competitor with the information about a potential rule breach must have lodged the protest.” Harburg said he did not want Wild Oats penalised.
“I was angry they didn’t have it [the AIS] on. It’s all over, and we are friends,’’ Harburg said.
Asked if the AIS was switched on, an issue the jury did not test due to the protest being dismissed, Richards said: “Our AIS was on the whole time.”