Wild Oats XI owner Bob Oatley and skipper Mark Richards accepted their trophies at the prizegiving of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race on Hobart's waterfront this afternoon. With grins as wide as the Derwent River, Oatley and Richards gave thanks to their team mates, the organisers, and the people of Hobart for the rapturous reception that every boat receives when finishing this gruelling race.
Launched just three weeks ago, the brand new 98-foot Maxi Wild Oats XI and her crew achieved the unthinkable, a clean sweep of line honours, handicap victory and a new course record. ‘This is something we will remember for ever,’ said Richards, as the jubilant crew held aloft the two great prizes of the Great Race, the JJ Illingworth trophy for line honours and the Tattersalls Cup for winning on IRC handicap. Two days ago, Matteo Mazzanti of Rolex SA had presented the skipper with a Rolex Yachtmaster timepiece in Rolesium for winning line honours. Today, Richards received a second Rolesium in honour of Wild Oats's handicap victory.
Oatley has spent many years and many millions trying to win the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, and finally he has won everything at once. ‘It's a competition known throughout the world, it's a very hard race to win, and a hard race to finish,’ he said, sparing a thought for the 17 yachts still battling their way to Hobart. ‘I'd like us all to think about the yachts still out there racing. Every one of them deserves a Victoria Cross.’
All but one of the 85-boat fleet is expected to have finished by Saturday afternoon, with Dave Kent's Gillawa due into Hobart sometime early in the new year. All five IRC handicap divisions now have a winner. Wild Oats XI won IRC A, Gerard O'Rourke's Irish entry, the Cookson 50 Chieftain, won IRC B; Lou Abrahams completed his 43rd Rolex Sydney Hobart with Sydney 38 Challenge and won IRC division C; Graeme Wood's Wot's Next took IRC D, and Mike Freebairn won IRC E with the 1968 handicap winner of the Hobart, the venerable mahogany-constructed classic yacht, Ray White Koomooloo.
Today's arrivals brought many more stories to add to the folklore of this race. Having completed his 43rd Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, IRC division C winner Lou Abrahams said he wanted to come back just one more time. The 78-year-old twice winner of the race said he wanted to equal - but not exceed - the record of 44 race starts held by John Bennetto, who died recently just days before he was due to embark on his 45th Hobart. ‘I wouldn't mind equalling John's record,’ he said. ‘I don't want to beat his record. It was never one of my targets to set a race number. It just happened that way. John did a great job and I wouldn't mind equalling it. I don't want to surpass it.’
Dallas Kilponen was a somewhat reluctant participant in this year's race, aboard the Maxi Konica Minolta, but he had very special reasons for wanting to reach Hobart. ‘My father had a long association with the race in the 1970s,’ explained Kilponen. ‘In 1975 he was the tactician on the Maxi yacht Kialoa, when they set a race record that stood for 21 years. He passed away a couple of years ago and I was flooded with emails from yachties around the world that knew him. He was a well-known figure in the sport..’
Kilponen says the deluge of tributes to his father aroused a new interest in a sport that had never really appealed to him. ‘I was curious about what is it that makes guys do this race. So I made a call to a few of his mates, and their first reaction was 'what took you so long?', because they thought I would have become a yachtie from the word go.’
Kilponen competed in last year's bruising 60th edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart aboard the Volvo Ocean 60 IDEC-Merit. ‘I carried some of dad's ashes on the boat, but we got smashed in Bass Strait and we had to retire with equipment failure. That was disappointing, and at the time I said never again, because I'd seen just how nasty Bass Strait could be.
But I'm one of those blokes who has to finish something, and I was fortunate to get a ride on Konica Minolta this year. And what a fantastic race we had. It's special because it marks the 30th anniversary of Kialoa's race win and record, it was a perfect way to do the race, to get on a Super Maxi just like my old man would have done in his day. I wore his Kialoa belt, and just like I used to wave him goodbye, I had my wife and two daughters waving me goodbye.’
While he enjoyed the race, Dallas Kilponen says he is quitting while he is still ahead. ‘I'd have to win the race if I was going to come back. It would be the only way to get a bigger buzz than the one I've got now. I saw the worst of the race last year and I've seen the best of the race this year, so I'll leave it at that.’
Top 10 Line honours finishers
1. Wild Oats finished at 08:00 hours
2. Alfa Romeo finished at 09:16 hours
3. Skandia finished at 13:45 hours
4. Konica Minolta finished at 14:46 hours
5. AAPT finished at 17:42 hours
6. Loki finished at 01:19 hours
7. Coogans Stores finished at 01:27 hours
8. Seriously 10 finished at 01:53 hours
9. Hugo Boss finished at 02:14 hours
10. ABN AMRO finished at 02:34 hours
Final Overall IRC standings
1. Wild Oats XI (confirmed as IRC handicap winner)
2. Alfa Romeo
3. Konica Minolta
8. Hardy Secret Mens Business
9. Quantum Racing
10. Wot's Next
IRC Divisional Winners
Overall: Wild Oats XI (Aus, NSW/Qld) - Bob Oatley, Mark Richards
IRC Division A: Wild Oats XI (Aus, NSW/Qld) - Bob Oatley, Mark Richards
IRC Division B: Chieftain (Ireland) - Gerard O'Rourke
IRC Division C: Challenge (Aus, Vic) - Lou Abrahams
IRC Division D: Wot's Next (Aus, NSW) - Graeme Wood
IRC Division E: Ray White Koomooloo (Aus, Qld) - Mike Freebairn
PHS: Pekljus (NSW) - David Ferrall
Sydney 38: Challenge (Aus, Vic) - Lou Abrahams
The race record
In winning this year's race, Wild Oats XI set a new race record of 1 day, 18 hours and 40 minutes, beating by more than an hour the previous record set by the Volvo Ocean 60 Nokia in 1999.