Wild Oats XI’s Sydney to Hobart line honours win is under a cloud, with the event’s race committee advising that the yacht may have breached regulations.
A protest was lodged late on Friday night against the supermaxi after runner-up Black Jack claimed post-race that Wild Oats XI’s Automatic Identification System was not on during sailing.
The protest, brought against Wild Oats XI by the race committee, will be heard in Hobart from 1pm on Saturday (3pm NZ Time).
The race committee said in statement it received a report from Black Jack saying the AIS had not transmitted “throughout the race”.
It’s the second time in two years a protest has been lodged against Wild Oats XI.
Wild Oats XI was also first past the post in 2017 but lost line honours to Comanche after copping a time penalty for an infringement at the start of the race.
Wild Oats XI was first to cross the finish line at 8.07am on Friday in Hobart after one of the closest contests in the event’s history.
It was relief for the crew, who were forced to retire in 2015 and ’16.
“It’s a day of redemption for us that’s for sure. We’re so happy with the result,” skipper Mark Richards said.
A pack of four supermaxis fought tooth and nail over the 628 nautical mile race, with Wild Oats XI pulling ahead just before dawn on the final day.
Black Jack finished just 29 minutes behind Wild Oats XI in second. Comanche followed closely in third, with Infotrack fourth.
After reaching Hobart, Black Jack owner Peter Harburg said his yacht was disadvantaged because Wild Oats XI’s AIS was not on and they couldn’t detect where the opposition boat was sailing.
“The rules say it’s got to be on all the time,” he told the ABC.
“We didn’t know where they were, and they knew where we were all the time, so that has disadvantaged us.”
Sydney to Hobart regulations required an AIS transponder to be carried and switched on so that it is receiving and transmitting.
Richards has brushed off the controversy as a storm in a tea cup.
Wild Oats XI navigator Juan Vila told News Corp Australia he had turned the AIS on and believed the system had been on for the entire race, which could point to a malfunction.
Harburg didn’t lodge a protest but said the Sydney to Hobart race committee should look into it.
“That was a game-winning manoeuvre right there,” Richards said.
Richards had a traditional dip in the River Derwent, champagne drenching and not-so-traditional ‘shoey’ at the end of the 74th edition of the race.It is the first line honours win for Wild Oats XI since the passing of owner Bob Oatley in 2016.
Handicap honours remain open, with last year’s winner Ichi Ban in the mix.