Wild Oats XI crosses the finish line
Wild Oats XI crosses the finish line

Line honours for Wild Oats XI

The latest from the Audi Sydney Offshore Newcastle Yacht Race

Saturday March 20th 2010, Author: Jennifer Crooks, Location: Australia

Under the guidance of Mark Richards, Bob Oatley’s 100ft Reichel Pugh-designed Wild Oats XI, has taken line honours in the Audi Sydney Offshore Newcastle Yacht Race 2010. The supermaxi crossed the finish line in the Hunter River just after midday at 12.15.30 today, in the time of 1 day 15 minutes and 30 seconds.

Wild Oats XI finished well outside the race record of 15 hours 57 minutes 53 seconds set by Stephen Ainsworth and his RP63 Loki crew in 2009. It was a hot and hungry crew that arrived at the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club after sailing the last few hours of the race sailed in a north-easterly breeze of varying pressure under a hot sun.

"It was a very slow race, but we had a beautiful night at sea,” Wild Oats XI’s skipper Mark Richards said before stepping ashore. “There was a lot of current and it was dead on the wind all the way,” he said.

Wild Oats XI sailed with a lighter crew of 18, the same number they raced to Hobart with in December: “and we’d go to Hobart with 18 again,” Richards said.

The crew included tactician Iain Murray, a man who needs no introduction, having won just about every class of skiff, dinghy, keelboat and yacht he has sailed. Adrienne Cahalan was aboard in her usual role of navigator.

“It was a race for tacticians and navigators,” Richards conceded. “You had to sail a bit of inshore and a bit of offshore. The current was inshore, but the breeze was offshore.”

Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club commodore, Bruce Hansen, presented Mark Richards and his crew with the line honours trophy on the lawn of the Club this afternoon before they jumped back aboard for the return sail to Sydney.

Bob Oatley’s skipper revealed that the Audi Sydney Offshore Newcastle Yacht Race, sailed on flat water, “was a great testing analysis for modifications planned for the Hobart this year – it was a very worthwhile exercise.”

Richards said the plan was for Wild Oats XI to contest the Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race in July, Audi Hamilton Island Race Week in August - and the whole of the next Blue Water Point Score. “They’ll all be good tests for the boat and boat handling in all conditions, he maintained.

“We’ll be making our modifications before Hamilton Island, to make sure we’re going well – then we can have another crack at reclaiming Sydney Hobart line honours,” Richards admitted.

Mark Richards

The super maxi’s crew was hopeful of a morning finish, navigator Adrienne Cahalan reporting shortly after 8.30am: “We’re in Stockton Bight and have about 25nm to go, but the wind is really dropping now to 5-10 knots, so at this rate we may not finish for a while. Hopefully the wind will fill in and we’ll finish mid to late morning.” It was not to be.

The next yacht due to finish is the race record holder, Loki, the RP63 owned by Stephen Ainsworth, which overhauled the Peter Millard/John Honan Queensland entry Lahana after the 30 metre supermaxi made the mistake of sailing inshore at the wrong time and got stuck in a wind hole.

At 1.30pm, Loki was 20 nautical miles from the finish line, with Lahana two miles astern and the Chris Nicholson-skippered Yendys a further 8 miles behind.

The rest of the fleet will be greeted by NCYC officials as they dwindle slowly across the Hunter River finish line throughout the afternoon, night and into tomorrow morning.

Currently, Bob Steel’s TP52 Quest leads the race overall under IRC from Yendys, Loki and Ragamuffin, which are all in the running to win the Club’s Blue Water Pointscore. Quest is looking promising if the crew can maintain their performance.

A further two boats have retired from what is a very slow uphill race. David Beak’s Mr Beaks Ribs (NSW) returning to Sydney and Tony Kirby’s Patrice Six (NSW), retiring into Newcastle.

The Audi Sydney Offshore Newcastle Yacht Race, organised by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, started yesterday on Sydney Harbour and is the final race of the Blue Water Pointscore and the Tasman Series for the PHS trophy.

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