Re­lief for Wild Oats

Sunday Tasmanian - - Front Page - JAMES BRESNEHAN RE­PORTS,

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.”

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