HOBART // The discovery of a aquatic stowaway helped Australian maxi Wild Oats XI surge to an unprecedented fourth successive line honours victory in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race on Sunday, the vessel's captain Mark Richards said. The 30-metre carbon-fibre yacht, which had been trailing rivals Skandia for most of Saturday, was forced to stop to free the two-metre shark that had got tangled in its aft rudder just before midday on Saturday.
Richards said the crew had already thought something had been impeding the yacht since it left Sydney Harbour on Friday before they struck the shark. After the shark freed itself, Wild Oats XI surged ahead of the 2003 winner and crossed the finish line in the island state of Tasmania just after 2.30am on Sunday, an hour before Skandia. "It was a godsend in the end because the second we got him off, the boat was back to its old self," Richards said at Hobart's Constitution Dock.
"It might have been something off a spectator boat, I mean it was just a washing machine, a nightmare, you never know what could have happened," he said of the possible reason for its problems. Richards said he had thought about sending a crew member over the side to inspect the keel, but the tight match race they were in with Skandia never gave him the opportunity. "We just never stopped. When you are doing 20-25 knots all the time it's a hard thing to work out what to actually do.
"So we were sort of waiting for the opportunity but in the end we didn't have one. We had to do it anyway." Three of the 100 yachts that started in Sydney on Dec 26 have retired, with the crew of Georgia having to be rescued by fellow competitors when it suffered rudder damage and began to sink on Friday. *Reuters