Wild Oats XI’s sails to eighth line honours victory
Photo © Daniel Forster / Rolex
2014 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race
Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI has done it again, and in claiming Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race line honours for an eighth time at 15.03.26 hours in the time of two days two hours three minutes and 26 seconds, goes down in the race’s 70 year history as the only yacht to ever achieve this amazing feat.
Wild Oats XI has outdone the efforts of Morna/Kurrewa IV, the holder of seven line honours titles during the 1950’s and her last in 1960.
After a revealing start in which Comanche left the rest of the fleet in its wake, Mark Richards and his crew persevered to the end, Comanche chasing her and narrowing the gap to 10 nautical miles at Tasman Island, as Ken Read and the crew on the American yacht owned by Jim Clark and Kristy Hinze Clark did all they could to overtake the Mark Richards skippered Wild Oats XI.
At 2.10pm, an announcement over the loudspeaker in Hobart alerted locals that Wild Oats XI was in the River Derwent, the crowds gathering quickly to greet the nine year-old yacht that has proved almost infallible, even to the brand new American raider in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 628 nautical mile race.
A riveting Sydney Harbour start to the race as Wild Oats XI chased Comanche, to an equally riveting finish where the roles were reversed as Mark ‘Ricko’ Richards and crew went into overdrive in the light airs of Bass Strait and overtook their quarry.
Despite reports of soft winds, Wild Oats XI made good time up the Derwent, her spinnaker full and boat speed between 12 and 16 knots, while Comanche was averaging 14-15 knots. Richards looked remarkably calm at the helm, he and the crew smiling and waving to the incredible spectator fleet, including the usually gruff Iain Murray.
A couple of gybes later, just prior to 3pm, the spinnaker was dropped as ‘The Oats’ two-sail reached towards the Castray Esplanade finish line, throwing in three more gybes before crossing the line four hours inside the 2 days 6hrs 6mins 27secs of last year, but well outside her 2012 race record of one day 18hrs 23mins 12secs.
Richards was all smiles as CYCA commodore John Cameron handed him the champagne and presented him with the J.H. Illingworth trophy. All thoughts of the start when he remarked “look at that thing go,” were forgotten.
“The boys did a wonderful job in overcoming Comanche which led for the first night. I can’t believe I’m standing here today,” Richards said.
“To win a Hobart is a great honour, but to win line honours for an eighth time – I’m so proud.”
You can’t deny the class of the Oatley boat. Even the purported ‘fastest super maxi in the world’, Rambler/Perpetual Loyal could not overcome her rival last year. Sadly, Anthony Bell’s yacht suffered hull damage and retired after a day at sea.
Bob Oatley was effusive dockside as his yacht was brought to the dock by the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania escort vessel: “It’s a miracle – and we will be back next year, yes, we’ll definitely be back next year, a clearly emotional Oatley said. “She is the best boat in the world; she’s proved that.”
Commanche glides in for second – Photo c Daniel Forster / Volvo
And Ken Read and his crew on the new ‘aircraft carrier’, dubbed so because two of Wild Oats’ narrow stern could fit inside that of Comanche’s, found the same problem, unable to recover the ground it had lost in Bass Strait.
Dignified in defeat, Comanche’s owner, Jim Clark, said: “Wild Oats and Mark Richards ran one hell of a race and it’s a really excellent boat. Disappointed we got stuck in that high pressure system, but they managed to sneak through it. And you’ve got to give them credit, that’s the nature of that boat, they’ve got the balance.
Will he bring Comanche back to the race? “We’ll see if we’re back next year, not sure. We have a lot of big plans and I just don’t know whether we’ll make it back or not, we’ll have talk to the crew and see what they think.”
On board Wild Oats XI, Steve Jarvin, who works the main traveller on the yacht, was celebrating a record 13th line honours victory. They include the two treble wins scored by Bob Oatley’s yacht in 2005 and 2014 respectively. He was perhaps also reflecting on his son Seve, racing in competition to him aboard Perpetual Loyal, not making the finish line.
Wild Rose declared overall winner
Photo © Carlo Borlenghi / Rolex
Who could have known at any stage of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race that boats touched by Bob Oatley and both bearing the name ‘Wild’ in their title would take line honours and overall corrected time honours in the 70th edition of the race and the 70th anniversary of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia?
That is exactly what happened when Wild Rose, Bob Oatley’s first grand prix ocean racer, sailed into Hobart, her owner Roger Hickman having to wait to be declared overall winner of the race with the 29-year-old yacht.
“I feel lucky and privileged to have Bob Oatley’s boat,” Hickman said this morning.
“I sailed with Bob Oatley on this boat and with Hugh Treharne (America’s Cup winner 1983) and Rodney Pattison (English double Olympic gold medallist).
“I did three Hobarts with Bob on this boat. When I bought boat from him in 1991, he almost gave it to me,” a clearly emotional Hickman said.
“I was a young merchant navy officer then. I was honoured and privileged to sail with him and the others. Six years later when I went to buy the boat, I only had half the money, so I asked Bob if he could wait while I tried to raise the rest. He said to me, ‘Roger, you were the only guy to ever go to the bar and buy me a drink, don’t worry about the rest’.
Love & War (Simon Kurts) along with South Australian entry, Enchantress (John Willoughby), were among the handful in contention to win the race overall, but in the late stages, stopped to give assistance when a light plane crashed late yesterday near Cape Raoul.
“We felt we had enough distance, but not enough time on her. It’s not a pleasant feeling, waiting to be told whether you have won. The anxiety goes up. To win this race is difficult at the best of times, to deal with this waiting game now….
“I certainly feel empathy for Loki and others I’ve kept waiting; now I know what it feels like. I also feel sorry for Bruce Taylor – he’s had to wait around yet again,” he said of second overall placed Taylor with his Chutzpah.
For full finish positions see: www.rolexsydneyhobart.com
By Di Pearson, RSHYR Media