by Di Pearson
Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI, skippered by Mark Richards, took line honours in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s (CYCA) 384 nautical mile Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race this morning at 07.11.27am, finishing the race in one day 18hr 11min 27sec to confirm she is still the fastest super maxi in Australia.
WILD OATS XI sunrise - Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race 2011
Win he may have, but the swords were drawn and Richards had to fight for every mile of the race though. Anthony Bell’s same sized Investec Loyal (100ft) finished the race at 07.20.49am, just nine minutes 22secs behind Wild Oats XI, after leading the fleet off the Sydney Harbour start line and to South Head on Saturday. She was only overtaken when the pair turned left for Southport.
And Richards admitted Investec Loyal had kept them honest throughout the race, pulling to within two nautical miles of Wild Oats XI in the later stages of the race. 'It was good stuff - really close the whole way – it reminds us we’re not infallible,' he said.
'We were happy in breeze and not so good in the light stuff. Like everyone else, we parked up along the way; lots of parking chews away at the clock but that’s ocean racing.
'It was very close towards the end, and the most important thing was getting to the finish first. We made it so they (Investec Loyal) would have to sail around us to beat us,' he said, adding: 'We’re very happy with the modifications we made to the boat – the new daggerboard worked well.'
Anthony Bell was thrilled with the way his yacht raced. 'We’re in stage one of some modifications and this was our first big race since Hobart. We’ve altered the keel and got a new rig, so we didn’t want to press the rig too hard in our first race,' he said.
Audi Sydney-Southport 2011 - Finish in Southport Investec Loyal - Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race 2011
Closing the gap on Wild Oats XI at around 3.00am this morning, Bell said: 'tactically we pushed a bit harder in the early hours and took a bit out of them. We made a couple of tactical errors in the race, but I think most could say the same.'
The two, with a cast of rock stars, will next face each other at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, from 19-27 August, and both will have fairly much the same crews who have sailed the Audi Gold Coast Yacht Race. 'We’re looking forward to it,' Richards said.
Aboard Wild Oats XI were such luminaries as 32nd America’s Cup winner Grant Simmer and renowned navigator Adrienne Cahalan, while Bell beefed his crew up with the likes of helmsman Billy Merrington, tactician Michael Coxon, 32nd America’s Cup winner Will McCarthy, Tommy Braidwood, and New Zealander Mike Quilter, who along with Cahalan is one of the best navigators in the world.
For Hamilton Island, Bell will also add some serious star attractions including Larry Emdur, Geoff ‘Skippy’ Huegill and Wallaby player Phil Waugh. 'Actually, Phil’s becoming a seriously good sailor. He’s very competitive and really into it. People may be surprised to see him working mid bow at Hamilton Island - he asked for it – he wants the thrill factor.'
Sixty four yachts remain at sea in the Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race and the next one expected to cross the finish line sometime after 11.00am this morning is Stephen Ainsworth’s reigning Audi IRC Australian champion, Loki.
WILD OATS XI crew at the finish - Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race 2011
Finish in Southport Wild Oats XI - Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race 2011