This year’s Rolex Sydney to Hobart yacht race saw drama at both the start and the finish of the race. Indeed, the drama at the start determined who would be awarded the line honors at the finish. Let’s start with the finish line. Supermaxi yacht, Wild Oats XI, completed the 628 nautical mile race in a record-shattering time of one day, eight hours, 48 minutes and 50 seconds, besting the previous record set last year by Perpetual Loyal by almost five hours. Directly behind Wild Oats, LDV Comanche also beat the previous record, crossing the finish line just 33 minutes after the leader. LDV Comanche was declared the line winner. Why? The answer was at the start of the race.
As the 103 yacht fleet was approaching Sydney Heads at the start of the race, Wild Oats, under the command of Mark Richards, tacked too close to LDV Comanche. Comanche helmsman James Spithall had to change course to avoid a collision between the two over 100′ long yachts. Spithall raised the protest flag.
Wild Oats’ Richards claimed that they did nothing which broke the rules. The international jury which reviewed the protest disagreed and penalized Wild Oats by one hour’s race time. As Commanche was less than an hour behind the leader in the race, Comanche was declared the line winner.