A Boxing Day start is always a little tricky for a long offshore ocean race. First you have to deal with that Christmas pud and a couple of beers still sloshing around in your belly and then you have to deal with the forecast, which, in the case of the Sydney to Hobart race is usually not very pretty. This year was different, however, and the sailors participating in this iconic race woke up to a very pleasant forecast that promised a fast and relatively easy ride to Hobart.
Fast it was and easy it was, at least for the big boats as the super-maxis duked it out in Sydney harbor before hitting the open ocean. Despite the benign forecast there was still some drama as two race favorites got into a port starboard incident that is going to cast a long shadow over the final result. Wild Oats XI, skippered by Mark Richards, were in the opinion of this humble writer, clearly in the wrong as they approached LDV Comanche on port and tacked ahead and to windward but only after Wild Oats XI had to veer out of their way. I say that this incident will cast a long shadow because both yachts have finished and Jim Cooney, the skipper of LDV Comanche has indicated that he will lodge a protest about the incident.
LDV Comanche led for most of the race but things went south for them as they approached the finish with light and fickle winds in the River Derwent. Comanche was in the lead as they rounded Tasman Light on the approach to the finish, but Wild Oats XI passed them in a fading breeze and went on to win in record time by 26 minutes. After both boats had docked Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards went over to Comanche to see if there was going to be a protest and was told that there would be one, so the final outcome of this Sydney Hobart Race remains in the balance. The protest will be heard by an international jury in the next couple of days.
Depending on the outcome of the protest this could be a record ninth line honors for Wild Oats and a third record for them which nobody in the history of the race has ever done before. The new record time that they set of 1 day, 8 hours, 48 minutes and 50 seconds will also not be confirmed until the protest has been heard but no matter which way the protest goes there will be a new record as both boats lobbed more than four hours off the previous record.
Meanwhile the rest of the fleet is slowly making its way to Hobart with this being one of the more uneventful races in history. Three yachts have retired for various reasons and the overall handicap winner will be decided once all the boats have finished.