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Wild Oats survives protest to win Sydney to Hobart line honors

By Emily Smith for CNN
  • A jury has dismissed a protest against Wild Oats XI in the Rolex Sydney to Hobart yacht race
  • It had been claimed the crew broke rules by failing to radio its position entering into Bass Strait
  • It's the fifth win for Wild Oats in six years
  • The annual race is one of the most difficult in the world

(CNN) -- Wild Oats XI has won line honors in the 66th Rolex Sydney to Hobart ocean yacht race after a sailing jury dismissed a protest against it on Wednesday.

The supermaxi yacht crossed the finish line first on Tuesday, but race officials lodged a protest, claiming the crew broke rules by failing to radio its position entering into Bass Strait.

But the jury threw out the protest, meaning Wild Oats has been declared the winner for the fifth time in six years.

"I'm very relieved," skipper Mark Richards told the race's website, despite earlier saying he was confident they had done nothing wrong.

The annual race, one of the most difficult in the world, sees the fleet make its way from Sydney Harbor, down the south-eastern Australian coast, finishing in Tasmania's Derwent River.

In difficult conditions, Wild Oats was never challenged, leading since it left Sydney on December 26. The supermaxi finished the 628 nautical mile course in two days, seven hours and 37 minutes -- three and a half hours ahead of its nearest rival, Investec Royal.

Common sense prevailed and the right result was made
--Mark Richards, Wild Oats XI skipper
  • Sailing
  • Yachting
  • Sydney Harbour
  • Australia

But the time is well outside the race record the yacht set in 2005. Gale-force conditions have proven difficult for the fleet and so far have seen 19 of the 87 boats that started retire, including previous winner Brindabella.

"It's a big deal, a lot of effort goes into the race, the result is a good one and we're very happy," Richards said after the jury's decision.

The rule requiring the yachts to make radio contact had been put in place after the 1998 race when six crewmen lost their lives in fierce storms.

The Race Committee lodged the protest against the Australian supermaxi with chairman Tim Cox telling reporters in Hobart he considered failure to radio in its position "a serious breach."

However, the jury found Wild Oats had received acknowledgment from Hobart radio, which did satisfy race rules.

"Juries are very good at making you sweat and they made us sweat today, but common sense prevailed and the right result was made," Richards said.

Race organizers say they'll now look at the wording of the rule to see what changes are needed.

"That's not to say safety of crews, and the ability of one yachtie to go to the aid of another yachtie in distress, will not always be paramount in the eyes of the race committee," Garry Linacre, Commodore of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, told the website.

He said justice had prevailed in the end. "It was the right decision," he said.

The majority of the racing fleet is still making its way to Hobart.