HK-owned Beau Geste among record breakers as Comanche earns Sydney to Hobart line honours after protest

Karl Kwok's Botin 80 is one of five boats who beat last year’s mark as judges uphold Jim Cooney’s protest against Wild Oats XI

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 December, 2017, 5:51pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 December, 2017, 10:40pm

Hong Kong-owned Beau Geste was among five boats who broke the Sydney to Hobart Race record as LDV Comanche took overall line honours ahead of Wild Oats XI after a successful protest.

Twenty years after businessman Karl Kwok won the race on a Farr 49-designed Beau Geste, his 2017 Botin 80 version was fifth across the line on Wednesday in a time of one day, 12 hours, 36 minutes and 23 seconds, beating the record set last year by InfoTrack (formerly Perpetual Loyal) of 1:13:31:20, along with Comanche, Wild Oats XI, Black Jack (third) and InfoTrack (fourth).

Australian supermaxi Comanche was awarded line honours on Thursday after an international jury imposed a one-hour penalty on Wild Oats XI following a protest.

Wild Oats smashed the race record when it crossed the line at Constitution Dock in Hobart on Wednesday after taking one day, eight hours, 48 minutes and 50 seconds to complete the 630-nautical mile race. Comanche, which had led for much of the race before both boats stalled in fickle winds on the River Derwent, finished just over 26 minutes later.

Comanche, however, had protested about a near collision between the two supermaxis when Wild Oats completed a tack about 15 minutes after the start in Sydney harbour.

The jury upheld the protest yesterday and imposed a one-hour penalty on the Mark Richards-skippered Wild Oats, which had won the race eight times before. Richards could have avoided the protest had he performed a 720-degree turn penalty straight after the incident.

“Wild Oats XI had to keep clear, failed to keep clear while tacking, Oats did not do a turn,” race organisers said. “Decision is penalised by one hour. Comanche is line honours winner.”

It was the first time a yacht had been stripped of line honours since Rothmans in 1990.

“I think it’s entirely fair and reasonable that the jury acted as they did,” said Comanche’s owner Jim Cooney. “When you’re dealing with boats of this size and this calibre, we are at the elite level of our sport, and the boats have to be conducted responsibly in fair respect of the conditions and the impact that your manoeuvres might have.

“I felt very strongly that wasn’t the case,” Cooney said. “The rules are there to protect the people and the boats and if we can’t rely on that it’s a difficulty in the sport.

“I didn’t expect to protest to win the race, it was all about our actions to avoid a collision and the fact that was necessary. It’s a great relief that all the efforts of the crew, the support crew and my family were vindicated, so it was a relief that we did deserve the win.”

Richards said he would have taken a 720-degree turn penalty at the time of the incident if they thought they were in the wrong.

“Everyone is a genius in hindsight,” Richards said. “We had spoken about it ... but that was the decision we made and you have to live with it.”

Despite the setback, Richards and Sandy Oatley, representing the Oatley family, were gracious in defeat.

“Obviously we’re very disappointed, but the international jury had a job to do,” said Richards. “They saw the incident the way they saw it, we saw it a little bit differently, but the result is the result and we have to respect the decision of the jury.”

Oatley added: “We’d just like to congratulate Jim Cooney and his crew for their success, and move forward.”

Additional reporting by Staff Reporter