She might be 10 years old, but Wild Oats XI reaffirmed her status as Australia's supreme ocean-racing yacht by fending off a late charge by the brand-new American raider Comanche to win a record eighth line honors title Sunday afternoon.
The supermaxi, owned by Australian millionaire Bob Oatley, had to chase to take the lead from Comanche, built at Hodgdon Yachts in Maine, late on Saturday morning. But once she was in front she continued to the finish at Constitution Dock in Hobart on the Australian island of Tasmania.
Wild Oats XI crossed the finish line at 3.03 p.m. with an unofficial winning time of two days, two hours and three minutes — outside her 2012 race record of one day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds.
"It's a miracle — an absolute miracle. It's just about [the sweetest victory], but they're all sweet," Oatley told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Comanche still had 10 nautical miles to go when Wild Oats XI crossed the line on Sunday.
Comanche, owned by Texan billionaire Jim Clark and his Australian wife, Kristy Hinze, whittled the margin to less than 10 miles by the time it was close to Storm Bay.
"Wild Oats and Mark Richards ran one hell of a race, and it's a really excellent boat," Clark told the Herald. "Disappointed we got stuck in that high-pressure system, but they managed to sneak through it. And you've got to give them credit — that's the nature of that boat, they've got the balance.”
During the last 69 years, the Rolex Sydney Hobart has become an icon of summer sports in Australia. No regular annual yachting event in the world attracts such huge media coverage than does the start on Sydney Harbour.