Controversy rocks Sydney-Hobart winner again

Author
NZ Herald,
Section
Audio,
Publish Date
Saturday, 29 December 2018, 2:17p.m.
Wild Oats XI. Photo / Getty

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Wild Oats XI took out the 74th Sydney to Hobart yacht race for the record ninth time – but their win has again come under controversy.

After being stripped on line honours last year because of a rules breach, Wild Oats XI are once again stung by accusations of rule breaking.

The Mark Richards-skippered supermaxi snatched the lead from defending line honours champion Comanche to cross the line in Hobart shortly after 8am (local time).

It was a satisfying win after last year's mishap which handed victory to rivals Comanche due to a rule breach and time penalty.

However, Black Jack owner Peter Harburg and Skipper Mark Bradford raised a possible issue with an abnormality during the race, claiming that Wild Oats XI's Automation Identification System (AIS) – which must be operational at all times according to the rules – was not on for the entire race.

The pair said they didn't plan to protest the result but suggested that the race committee investigate the matter.

"The rules say every boat must have the AIS on," Harburg said. "The AIS means there are no secrets. We know where everyone is, they know what speed we are doing, what direction we are going.

"If you are going to win the race you should win it according to the rules … it should be fair.

"[It's] a pity that such a great race as this, which has been a close race with all of us changing position all the way down … got bad at the end because someone just doesn't have any regard for the rules."

Wild Oats XI navigator Juan Vila told The Daily Telegraph he believed the AIS was turned on for the entire race, while Richards dismissed the accusation.

"It's not a mandatory thing … we were in sight of each other the whole race, it was that close," Richards said.

The quartet of Wild Oats XI, Black Track, Comanche and Infotrack was at times separated by just a few nautical miles before the eventual winners made a gamble to sail a wider route, which ended up paying off.

Wild Oats XI finished in a time of one day, 19 hours, seven minutes and 21 seconds.

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