Comanche wins Sydney-Hobart, Wild Oats XI stripped of title

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HOBART, Australia (AP) — Super maxi LDV Comanche was awarded line honors in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race on Thursday after its protest against Wild Oats XI was upheld over an incident early in the race.

Wild Oats XI was found to have breached race rules over a tacking move at the start on Tuesday in Sydney Harbour. The eight-time winner was penalized one hour after lengthy deliberations by a five-person international jury in Hobart.

It was only the third time in the event's 73-race history that a yacht lost line honors due to a penalty.

In 1990, Rothmans received a time penalty for breaching advertising rules. In 1983, Nirvana failed to give Condor sufficient sea room; Nirvana crossed the line first but was later disqualified and Condor was declared the winner.

Wild Oats XI had crossed the finish line in record-breaking time but was only 26 minutes, 34 seconds ahead of LDV Comanche.

Mark Richards, the skipper aboard Wild Oats XI, said he and the yacht's crew accepted the jury's findings and penalty.

"Not very often do you smash a Sydney to Hobart record and then get it taken away from you, but it's happened to us today," he said. "We're very disappointed but we have to cop it on the chin."

LDV Comanche skipper and owner Jim Cooney described the decision as "fair."

"It's always a bit of a shame it may happen in these circumstances," he said. "The jury decided very clearly that there was an infringement in the harbor that penalized us. When things come down to the wire so closely like that I think it's only fair and reasonable that the jury acted the way they did."

The jury canvassed several witnesses and reviewed television before making its decision.

The allegation lodged with the jury was that Wild Oats XI was on a port tack, and Comanche was on a starboard tack, putting them on a collision course at the start of the race.

It alleged that Wild Oats did not complete its tack from port to starboard, failing to keep clear of Comanche.

Wild Oats XI had crossed the finish line in 1 day, 8 hours, 48 minutes, 50 seconds. The previous race record was 1 day, 13 hours, 31 minutes, 20 seconds.

The revised times show Comanche with a winning time of 1 day, 9 hours, 15 minutes, 24 seconds, still well inside the previous record by more than four hours. Wild Oats XI's revised time with the penalty added was 33 minutes behind.

The two other super maxis in the race were third and fourth and also under the previous race record: Black Jack and Info Track, which was formerly Perpetual Loyal.

In the final hours of the race, Wild Oats and Comanche were neck and neck down Tasmania's east coast.

They entered the River Derwent where a lighter Wild Oats XI picked up a breeze to crawl into first place as her wider rival slowed to a near halt.

By late Thursday, 27 yachts had finished the race at Hobart from a starting field of 102, with only five retirements.

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