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Wild Oats XI makes it three in a row

by Lisa Ratcliff on 28 Dec 2007
Rolex Sydney to Hobart 2007 - WILD OATS XI © Andrea Francolini Photography http://www.afrancolini.com/
The Sydney maxi Wild Oats XI, skippered by Mark Richards, has made yachting history this morning, crossing the finish line of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race at 10:24am to secure her third consecutive line honours victory. Richards has been at the helm each time.

Wild Oats XI is the first yacht to achieve this feat since Claude Plowman’s Morna made it three in a row between 1946 and 1948, today’s result confirming her place as one of the most successful yachts in the history of the Rolex Sydney Hobart with three consecutive line honours, an overall win and the race record.

Her elapsed time for the race was one day 21 hours 24 minutes 32 seconds, the third fastest time for the 628 nautical mile course.

'We came here to do a job and that was to claim the treble,' said a jubilant Richards soon after crossing the finish line this morning. 'We were challenged, we were chased and we were constantly looking over our shoulders but we are here now and it’s time to celebrate.

'Back next year for a fourth? You never know, you’ll have to talk to Bob,' Richards added.

Bob Oatley’s 30m maxi Wild Oats XI was the pre-race favourite and has dominated since the opening minutes of Australia’s premier yacht race which began from Sydney Harbour at 1pm on 26 December. She led the fleet out of the Harbour and never looked back. In the opening 10 hours of the race she surged down the New South Wales coast reaching speeds of 22 knots in almost perfect conditions, but light southwesterly winds in Bass Strait yesterday quashed hopes of bettering her own record set two years ago.

Northerly winds overnight allowed her to make up a lot of time as she sped down the Tasmanian coast, reviving faint hopes of a new record, but it was always going to be a big ask.

Wild Oats XI crossed the finish line ahead of the British maxi City Index Leopard, skippered by Mike Slade. Slade staged a dramatic comeback over the course of the morning. At one stage the two frontrunners were 21 nautical miles apart and by the time the crew of Wild Oats heard the sound of cannon fire, thanks to members of the Militaria Association of Tasmania who dress in period costume to fire the cannon historic Battery Point, City Index Leopard was in the Derwent River and only four miles short of glory.

The result is an extraordinary achievement for Mark Richards who assembled a line up of 24 international yachtsmen with an extraordinary 233 Rolex Sydney Hobarts between them to mount the historic challenge.

In September Wild Oats XI was dismasted during the Rolex Maxi Yacht Cup in Sardinia and it has been a massive job getting a new mast and sails in time for the race, the boat only re-launched in the first week of December.

Currently in third place is Matt Allen’s modified Volvo 70 which this morning bore down on Grant Wharington’s Melbourne maxi Skandia which is limping to Hobart under jury rig after snapping the top of its mast at 2.30am this morning. Skandia is currently third but set to overtake is Roger Sturgeon’s Rosebud.

Morna, which sealed her third consecutive win in 1948 with an elapsed time of 4 days 5 hours and 1 minute, was a Fife design, a 65 foot Bermudan cutter which took line honours three times as Morna and went on to finish first over the line a further four times as Kurrewa IV. Morna was built in Sydney for the then Commodore the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, Dr Alexander MacCormick, and was owned by a number of prominent Sydney yachtsmen including the late Sir Frank Packer.
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