SPORT — <I>Wild Oats XI</I> ‘scrapes’ in from <I>Investec Loyal</I>

SPORT - Wild Oats XI 'scrapes' in from Investec Loyal

Monday, Gold Coast: Bob Oatley’s

Wild Oats XI
, skippered by Mark Richards, took line honours in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s (CYCA) 384nm Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race this morning at 07.11.27am, finishing the race in one day 18 hours 11 minutes 27 seconds to confirm she is still the fastest super maxi in Australia.

Win he may have, but the swords were drawn and Richards had to fight for every mile of the race, though. Anthony Bell’s same-sized
Investec Loyal
(100ft) finished the race at 07.20.49am, just nine minutes 22 seconds behind
Wild Oats XI, after leading the fleet off the Sydney Harbour start line and to South Head on Saturday. She was only overtaken when the pair turned left for Southport.

And Richards admitted
Investec Loyal
had kept them honest throughout the race, pulling to within 2nm of
Wild Oats XI
in the later stages of the race.

“It was good stuff — really close the whole way — it reminds us we’re not infallible,” said Richards.

“We were happy in breeze and not so good in the light stuff. Like everyone else, we parked up along the way; lots of parking chews away at the clock but that’s ocean racing.

“It was very close towards the end, and the most important thing was getting to the finish first. We made it so they (Investec Loyal) would have to sail around us to beat us. We’re very happy with the modifications we made to the boat — the new daggerboard worked well,” he said.

Bell was thrilled with the way his yacht raced. “We’re in stage one of some modifications and this was our first big race since Hobart,” he said. “We’ve altered the keel and got a new rig, so we didn’t want to press the rig too hard in our first race.”

Closing the gap on
Wild Oats XI
at around 3am this morning, Bell said: “Tactically, we pushed a bit harder in the early hours and took a bit out of them. We made a couple of tactical errors in the race, but I think most could say the same.”

The two yachts will next face each other at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, from August 19 to 27, and both will have fairly much the same crews who have sailed the Audi Gold Coast Yacht Race. “We’re looking forward to it,” Richards said.

Wild Oats XI
were such luminaries as 32nd
America’s Cup winner Grant Simmer and renowned navigator Adrienne Cahalan, while Bell beefed his crew up with the likes of helmsman Billy Merrington, tactician Michael Coxon, 32nd
America’s Cup winner Will McCarthy, Tommy Braidwood, and New Zealander Mike Quilter, who along with Cahalan is one of the best navigators in the world.

For Hamilton Island, Bell will also add some serious star attractions including Larry Emdur, Geoff “Skippy” Huegill and Wallaby player Phil Waugh. “Actually, Phil’s becoming a seriously good sailor. He’s very competitive and really into it. People may be surprised to see him working mid bow at Hamilton Island — he asked for it — he wants the thrill factor,” said Bell.

Sixty-four yachts remain at sea in the Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race and the next one expected to cross the finish line sometime after 11am this morning is Stephen Ainsworth’s reigning Audi IRC Australian champion,
Loki. — Di Pearson

For full race results visit the official race website

Photos (by Andrea Francolini, Audi):

1). Wild Oats XI
coming up to the finish line at Main Beach.

2). Watching the sunrise from
Wild Oats XI
just before finishing.

3). Skipper Mark “Ricko” Richards gives a wave and a smile after taking line honours.

4). Investec Loyal
Wild Oats XI
over the line just over nine minutes later.