Sailing: Wild Oats sews up Hobart race record

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The Independent Online

It was Wild Oats for breakfast in Hobart last night as the Australian superyacht, owned by Bob Oatley, bagged the honours and a new record in the Rolex Sydney to Hobart race.

After a charge down the coast of Tasmania, Wild Oats beat off the New Zealander Neville Crichton in the near sister-ship Alfa Romeo to take the first two prizes in a winner-takes-all tussle for a triple triumph.

Both were battling to be fastest to cover the 628 miles. Both wanted to break the race record of 1day 19hr 48min 2sec set in 1999 by a yacht 34 feet shorter and representing a former technological age, the Whitbread 60 Nokia. Both did, but it will be Oatley's name that is in the books with a new time of 1 day 18hr 40min 10sec, beating the record by 1hr 7min 52sec. And the icing on the cake was the prospect of not only being first to finish but also the overall winner of the yacht with the best corrected time after all the handicap time corrections were applied.

However, he could still be trumped by a smaller yacht. As Oatley negotiated a tricky finish up the Derwent River ­ carrying no mainsail because of damage ­ a yacht nearly half Wild Oats' size, the 50-foot Living Doll, owned by the Australian Mike Hiatt, had taken the lead on handicap. But he had 250 miles to run, and was facing a major, adverse change in the weather, virtually guaranteeing an unpredictable finish to the race.