Wild Oats XI keeps line honors after protest dismissed
HOBART, Australia (AP) — Wild Oats XI has kept its Sydney to Hobart line honors victory after a protest against the yacht was dismissed by a five-person international jury on Saturday.
Runner-up Black Jack claimed after the race ended that Wild Oats XI did not have its Automatic Identification System (AIS) switched on and that they were disadvantaged because they did not know where the yacht was sailing.
The protest, brought against Wild Oats XI by the race committee, was dismissed as invalid because it had to be filed by a competitor. Black Jack crew decided not to file a protest, but asked the race committee to look into the situation.
Russell Green, the chairman of the international jury, said the race committee’s investigation and protest had arisen from a competitor in the race, and therefore a person with a conflict of interest within the meaning of the racing rules of sailing.
“For the protest to be valid under racing rules of sailing, a competitor with the information about a potential rule breach must lodge a protest,” Green said.
“The sport of sailing is a self-policing sport. These guys are out there, out of sight, out of land, we don’t have referees. If there’s a possible breach, then it’s up to the competitors to bring a protest.”
Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards said he was pleased with the decision.
“I think common sense has prevailed,” Richards said. “This is a family and team of integrity and we go to the utmost lengths to do everything by the rules, sail by the rules and we go to the extra effort in many areas.”
“It’s just a shame that this came about, but it’s one of those things — everyone has their view, and we totally respect the decision.”
Wild Oats XI won by just 28 minutes ahead of Black Jack on Friday morning. Wild Oats XI could have been hit by a time penalty or even disqualification if the protest was upheld.
Wild Oats XI won in a time of 1 day, 19 hours, 7 minutes, 21 seconds, with Richards labeling the win “redemption.”
It’s the second time in two years a protest has been lodged against Wild Oats XI. The yacht was also first to the finish line in 2017 but lost line honors to Comanche, who finished third this year, after receiving a time penalty for an illegal tack at the start of the race in Sydney Harbour.
This year’s fleet in the 628-nautical mile race was reduced to 79 yachts from the starting 85 due to race retirements.
By Saturday afternoon, 32 yachts had finished the race.