South-easter blows Wild Oats over line
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
A BLISTERING final hour from Wild Oats X saw the 66-foot yacht edge out a plucky Wild Joe to claim line honours in the 25th annual Pittwater to Coffs Harbour yacht race.
As a strong southerly breeze kicked up in front of an evening storm, Wild Oats X managed to fly home at speeds of up to 25 knots to record a narrow victory only eight minutes and 35 seconds ahead of the rival that kept it so honest once the light air conditions began to dominate the race.
Wild Oats crossed the finish line on Tuesday at 7.40pm.
For the crew of Wild Oats, the victory caps off an amazing week having also captured line honours and a race record in the Sydney to Hobart aboard Wild Oats XI.
Mark Richards has been at the helm for both victories and even he can't imagine anything bigger than winning the two races.
"That will be pretty hard to beat," he admitted.
"It's been a fantastic week in our lives that's for sure."
A second race record looked on the cards early in the race before a frustrating 24 hours of near still conditions put paid to any dreams of race record glory.
"We had a great lead at Seal Rocks the first day, we lost sight of those guys well before dark but it was just one of those things we just ran out of breeze and spent the night virtually anchored," the skipper said.
"There's not much you can do about that, that's ocean racing."
The light conditions created their own set of frustrations aboard Wild Oats X as every time it seemed a winning break was created the wind gods had a change of heart.
"It was very patchy out there. We kept getting going and running out of breeze again so they kept catching up to us all the time and when it was real light they were going as quick as us so it was a tough race," Richards said.
"The boys did a fantastic job in the last hour and a half, they put 10 minutes on them in the last hour, that's pretty impressive but it was just good fun."
Wild Oats X owner Bob Oatley ignored medical advice to be on board for the race and was the first to admit that it was a pleasure to sail with the crew.
"They're absolutely fantastic the whole crew and they're wonderful guys," he said.
"A lot of them sail on the top yachts of the world and they're very, very capable guys, very capable.
"They love to get away from their America's Cup commitments and come and sail with us because the boats are faster actually."
Considering the success that he and the crew have had in the past fortnight, Oatley has found that he's needed to pinch himself recently to believe that it's all true.
"It's a difficult sport to do well in and to have the success that we've had this year is outstanding, beyond our dreams to have pulled so much off," he said.