Syd-Hob drama! Wild Oats XI stripped of title
LDV Comanche skipper Jim Cooney said he never expected he would have to protest to win his first Sydney to Hobart, but stands by his decision after Wild Oats XI was sensationally stripped of her race record and ninth line-honours triumph on Thursday night.
Wild Oats was hit with a one-hour time penalty for a rule infraction against Comanche just 15 minutes into the race, while the duelling supermaxis were still in Sydney Harbour.
A specially convened international jury determined Wild Oats XI had breached three at the start of the race and after failing to undertake a self-imposed, two-turn penalty at the time, the one-hour time penalty was decided upon by the jury in lieu of disqualification. LDV Comanche lodged a protest on its arrival in Hobart.
While disappointed at the outcome, Wild Oats spokesman Sandy Oatley congratulated his rivals on the victory.
"We are very disappointed but we are good sports. We just have to take it on the chin,'' said Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards.
An international jury ruled Wild Oats had failed to keep clear of Comanche in a tack and then failed to execute two turns which would have exonerated her.
The dramatic overturned result came less than 24 hours after both yachts smashed the old race record in the famous 628-nautical-mile bluewater classic.
The new Sydney to Hobart record time now belongs to Comanche, who crossed the finishing line in one day, nine hours, 15 minutes and 24 seconds.
Originally they were 26 minutes and 34 seconds behind Wild Oats but due to the penalty the supermaxi was demoted to second place and its adjusted finishing time is now one day, nine hours, 48 minutes and 56 seconds.
It is only the third time in 74 years a line honours winner has lost her mantle.
Cooney, who only bought the yacht a fortnight before the Sydney to Hobart to spend more time with his daughter Julia and son James, said the gloss had not been taken off the line-honours win.
"Not at all, but it did come as a surprise,'' Cooney told The Daily Telegraph.
"This hasn't overshadowed it. This is still a very sweet victory and we plan to celebrate. I have a rather large bottle of champagne given to us last night that I plan on opening.''
Cooney said he believed rules were there to keep competitors safe and that was why he pressed ahead with the protest.
"I didn't expect to win the race because of it but I wanted to make a point,'' he said.
Cooney's LDV Comanche was last night officially declared the line-honours winner with the trophy presented to the team along with individual medallions.
With an international jury there is no right of appeal for Wild Oats.
"We are very disappointed but I can see the jury's point of view. Everyone's a genius in hindsight. We made our decisions and have to live with them today. We'll get back up on the horse,'' Richards said.
The drama rivals that of two other Sydney to Hobart controversies.
In 1990 Rothmans receive a time penalty for breaching advertising rules which cost her line honours.
And in 1983 the drama played out on the Derwent River when Nirvana failed to give Condor sufficient sea room and she ran aground and was stuck on a yacht for five minutes.
Nirvana went on the take the race by 2min 16sec but the race committee disqualified her the next day and the win awarded to Condor.
An international jury of five people from Germany, Australia and New Zealand heard the protest at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania.
It involved a near miss not long after the start of the race at 1pm on Boxing Day.
Both yachts finished under race record time with Jim Cooney's LDV Comanche overtaken by Wild Oats in the final miles of the 628-nautical mile race.