Thousands of spectators lined the shore and docks of Constitution Dock and neighboring piers on a beautiful summer's evening to cheer Wild Oats XI as their crew tied up to the dock. Stepping ashore, a tired looking Mark Richards said, "It was all hard…a lot of testing conditions, a lot of light air and mentally very draining. We had a bit of everything that was the great thing about it.
"This is one of the best wins you could probably have. There's a lot of new competition and a lot of anxiety, no one hadany idea how we were going to go against each other. To sail away from these guys throughout the race was pretty amazing." Wild Oats XI owner, Australian winemaker Bob Oatley, joined Richards ashore and exclaimed, "Greatest thrill of my life…seven!"
Following was a dockside presentation where skipper Mark Richards and owner Bob Oatley were presented with the JJ Illingworth Trophy and a Rolex timepiece as the first yacht to finish.
The Reichel/Pugh-designed boat, built in 2005, showed itself as still competitive in this year's race, up against the toughest fleet ever assembled - which included 100-footers Perpetual Loyal and Ragamuffin 100, Volvo 70s Giacomo and Black Jack, and the newly launched 80-footer, Beau Geste. Richards said "To see a nearly nine-year old boat like this perform against the greatest and latest ocean racing boats in the world is pretty impressive."
Ian Burns, Wild Oats' strategist recalled a key part of the race, "The first night proved to be a huge parking lot for us and a lot of boats cleverly maneuvered through that, and really gave us quite a hard time to catch up. Luckily we had quite light conditions, which I don't think suits them (Perpetual Loyal) anywhere near as well as us. We were able to chip away slowly, you know a 1/10th of a mile at a time. Just after we got past them we came into a really light zone of wind and we managed to keep going - and they got parked up in the same zone and lost a huge amount of distance there.
"It started off (first day) if you were in front, you sort of lost to the guys behind you; but the second half of the race, once you got in front you got richer and richer, the wind got stronger, and more shift to you. We were able to leverage that pretty heavily and make some steady gains right through the whole race right down to Tasman."
Anthony Bell's Perpetual Loyal was second across the finish line with a time of 2 days, 9 hours, 19 minutes, 56 seconds. Bell is familiar with the front of the fleet - the skipper took line honours in the 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race on his previous boat Investec Loyal. That boat, now in the hands of Syd Fischer as Ragamuffin 100, was on track to be third over the finish line, giving Wild Oats and Loyal a run for their money.
When the bulk of the race fleet reached Bass Strait, the notorious body of water proved somewhat benign, with a 20 - 25 knot northeasterly providing perfect downwind sailing conditions. But the threat of the approaching low pressure that is forecast to bring a 30 - 40 knot southwesterly has the boats pushing to get as far south, as fast as possible.
Overnight a closely grouped pack of bigger boats are due to finish including Black Jack, Beau Geste, Giacomo and Wild Thing.
The race for overall handicap winner is still up for play. With the changing weather conditions, competitor's chances have been reshuffled. At 22:00 local time AEDT, Bruce Taylor's Caprice 40, Chutzpah was leading IRC overall on handicap.
Ninety boats are still racing - Wilparina retired for unknown reasons, while Canute retired with rudder bearing problems.