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Sydney to Hobart race winner faces disqualification

The threat of disqualification after being first to finish in the Rolex Sydney to Hobart race for the fifth time in six years was facing Bob Oatley’s 100-foot Wild Oats overnight British time in Tasmania.

A jury will hear an official protest from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s race committee at 13.00 local time in Hobart, saying the yacht, with Adrienne Cahalan and Ian ‘Fresh’ Burns as co-navigators, has broken rule 44.1, which requires all the yachts, 87 starters this year, to report in at set times or positions.

A similar protest is hanging over the heads of the British yacht Rán, the 72-footer owned by Skype internet communications founder Niklas Zennstrom and skippered by Tim Powell. Rán, named after a Swedish goddess, is due into Hobart at the end of the 628-mile race at about the same time that the Wild Oats hearing begins.

Alongside Burns, who is technical director of the America’s Cup winning team Oracle – BMW is ending its sponsorship partnership – is another former Australian America’s Cup competitor, Iain Murray. He is now the ceo of America’s Cup Race Management.

While they have been at sea news has emerged of two possible Australian challengers for the next Cup, AC34, though neither has stated that it has the funds to take part.

That would bring to five the number of challengers to Oracle, though the French Aleph Equipe de France has also to state that it is fully funded. Team New Zealand has yet to show its hand but, along with the Russian team Synergy, is thought to be a serious contender.

Both will be hoping that Oracle, through its sponsoring Golden Gate Yacht Club and the America’s Cup Event Authority, will meet their self-imposed deadline of Friday to announce the venue of the next Cup, which is scheduled to be staged in 2013.

Oracle’s home town of San Francisco has been the subject of extended negotiations with the city authorities and, when a rethink by the city administration was presented in mid-December Oracle representatives very publicly re-opened talks with Newport, Rhode Island, the home of the Cup for many of the years when it was held by the New York Yacht Club.

A venue near Rome, home of the Mascalzone Latino challenger of record, was also given discussion time.

“A lot of hard work is being done,” said a senior member of the Oracle group.