Here she comes . . . Wild Oats XI nears the finish line in the Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race yesterday.
Here she comes . . . Wild Oats XI nears the finish line in the Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race yesterday.

Wild Oats XI?s race into history

By CRAIG McTEAR

EVERYONE knew they were part of something special in Coffs Harbour yesterday morning.

As Wild Oats XI made her spectacular entry into the harbour, history was being re-written.

At 9.46am, the 30-metre beauty claimed line honours in the 26th Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race, becoming the first boat to win the Sydney to Hobart ? Pittwater to Coffs Harbour double.

Curious visitors and dedicated locals braved the drizzle and wind to cheer her home.

The shallow waters of the marina meant the super-maxi had to remain in the outer harbour so a quick turnaround to Sydney could be executed.

Well-wishers had to wait for the 25-strong crew to be ferried to the fishing co-op wharf in two launches to kick off the celebrations.

"We had a goal and we achieved it. We're ecstatic," skipper Mark Richards said.

"It's a great boat, a great crew and a fantastic team. This feels great."

Owner Bob Oatley, who flew to Coffs Harbour to be with his crew, said the victory meant a great deal to him.

"It takes an enormous amount of work to prepare a boat like this.

It takes full-time professionals to do it," Mr Oatley said.

"It's a fantastic yacht."

After claiming the Sydney to Hobart, half the crew sailed Wild Oats XI back to Sydney Harbour to be ready for the journey to Coffs Harbour, while the other half was flown back.

Mr Oatley scotched rumours he was thinking of putting his yacht on the market. He said he was not negotiating a sale with anyone.

Coffs Harbour resident Peter Skene was dockside yesterday to watch the triumph.

"What impresses me is all the effort that's gone into sailing these boats and covering the distance they have. The efforts of the crew are outstanding," Mr Skene said.

"I'm also here for the celebrations."

Coffs Harbour mayor, Cr Keith Rhoades, officially welcomed home the winners yesterday.

He said the race was now entrenched on the NSW yachting calendar.

"It's something the city has built on working with the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, and we're now seeing the success of that," Cr Rhoades said.

"We're a seaside community and the Festival of Sail is a wonderful thing, drawing in tourists and locals."



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