In what I’m sure is considered a huge scandal among the white-wine-drinking and boat-shoe-wearing crowds, Wild Oats XI has been stripped of Sydney to Hobart line honours after the jury found them to have broken race rules and penalised them an hour.
The penalty leaves Comanche, the vessel that crossed the finish line in second place, as the line honours winner in the race.
The jury ruled that Wild Oats XI breached the rules by failing to turn while tacking (the thing yachts do where they go back and forth to sail into the wind) causing a near collision with Commanche.
Jim Cooney, Commanche’s skipper, said he wasn’t thrilled with it coming down to a technicality but happy with the outcome:
I’m thrilled to be installed as the line honours winner. It’s something we’ve worked very hard for. It’s always a bit of a shame it may happen in these circumstances [but] … the jury’s decided very clearly that there was an infringement in the harbour that penalised us, and 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.
According to Reuters, Cooney says they didn’t make the complaint to win but to make sure the rules are enforced for safety’s sake:
I didn’t expect to protest in order to win the race, it was all about our actions to avoid a collision and the fact that was necessary.
I feel the rules are there to protect people’s lives and if we can’t rely on that then there is a difficulty in the sport.
Wild Oats skipper Mark Richards said he respected the jury’s decision:
We are very disappointed but I can see the jury’s point of view […] Everyone’s a genius in hindsight. We made decisions and have to live with them today. We’ll get back up on the horse.
As the Sydney Morning Herald notes, this is not the first time that a yacht has lost line honours due to a penalty, Nirvana losing its in 1983 after forcing another vessel to run aground and Rothmans running afoul of a ten-minute penalty in 1990.
If you’d like to read a bunch of very specific sailing rules talk, here’s the official ruling from international jury chairman John Rountree:
Wild Oats XI on port had to keep clear of LDV Comanche under Rule 10. Wild Oats XI failed to keep clear while tacking – Rule 13. LDV Comanche luffed to avoid a collision – Rule 14. Wild Oats XI did not comply with Sailing Instruction (S.I.) 20.1a to do a two-turn penalty for breaking the rule of part 2 occurring prior to clearing mark Zulu. The decision is in lieu of disqualification, penalised a time penalty of one hour to be added to her elapsed time in accordance with Sailing Instruction 20.1b and SI 22.1.
Sure, absolutely.Image: Supplied