Bob Oatley’s supermaxi Wild Oats XI slipped into Hobart just minutes after midnight last night, but even before she had crossed the finish line in the Rolex Sydney Hobart race he was planning a return.
‘We came here this year to get our fifth line honours and missed the target, so we will have to come back next year and go again,’ said the 81-year-old veteran yachtsman and famous winemaker. ‘It is wonderful to see Neville Crichton so happy after taking line honours with Alfa Romeo this year. He has wanted this result for four years, and he and his crew deserve it.
‘In this sport, like any other, you must enjoy your victories and learn from your defeats. I’m very proud of what the Wild Oats XI team has achieved since 2005 – four straight line honours, a race record time that still stands, and a win on handicap. Tonight all I can add is that four wins and a second out of five races isn’t bad.’
A wildly fluctuating and rapidly weakening breeze on the Derwent River slowed Wild Oats XI’s progress to the finish line off Hobart’s waterfront: she eventually crossed the line two hours after the victor. By the time third the placed supermaxi, ICAP Leopard (Mike Slade, UK), entered the river the breeze was all but gone. She eventually reached the finish 5 hours 40 minutes behind Wild Oats XI.
Wild Oats XI skipper, Mark Richards, said after finishing in Hobart that Crichton and his team had sailed a faultless race: ‘It was a tactical race and we never really got a look in, Alfa Romeo had a little edge on us in speed on the first night, then the next morning, when we were in a big, windless parking lot together, they got the new breeze first and put 30 miles on us before we knew what had happened. That’s the way it is and congratulations to those guys.’
Within minutes of arriving at the dock in Hobart the Richards and his crew were converting Wild Oats XI from racing to delivery mode. Four hours later, before sunrise and with many of the race crew still aboard, the supermaxi was heading out of the Derwent River on a high speed delivery back to Sydney for the start of the Pittwater to Coffs Harbour