Posted: Dec 28, 2013 4:50 AM
Updated: Dec 28, 2013 4:51 AM
HOBART, Australia (AP) Defending champion Wild Oats XI took line honors in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race for a record-equaling seventh time, winning by more than 30 nautical miles Saturday.
Wild Oats, skippered by Mark Richards and owned by billionaire wine mogul Bob Oatley, who is head of the Australian syndicate challenging for the next America's Cup, crossed the finish line in the 628-nautical-mile race in 2 days, 6 hours, 7 minutes.
Thousands on the Hobart waterfront for the island capital's holiday season festivals cheered on the crew of 20, who have a combined 250 Sydney to Hobart races between them.
Wild Oats set the race record last year when it finished in 1 day, 18 hours, but light winds this year left that mark well out of reach.
The other yacht to win seven Hobart races was Morna/Kurrewa IV, the first time in 1946 and the last in 1960.
Oatley said at the finish line at Constitution Dock that fluctuating weather conditions left his boat's line honor chances in doubt.
"(We were) worried until we got across the line today because it is such a difficult race," the 86-year-old Oatley said. "We lost the lead the first night out with difficult weather conditions. Then we were happy to pick it up again and improve on it which we have done all day."
He said the crew will be back to attempt to make it eight wins next year.
"We've got a great future, more wins," he said. "It's beautiful, it's wonderfully built."
Anthony Bell's Perpetual Loyal, which led for some of the first 24 hours of the race, finished second, more than three hours behind after having been 33 nautical miles back when Wild Oats crossed.
The back of the fleet mostly smaller yachts was bracing for southwesterly gale-force winds to hit Bass Strait overnight Saturday night. The Bureau of Meteorology was predicting winds of up to 40 knots (75 kilometers per hour, 45 mph) and seas up to four meters (14 feet).
In 1998, a storm hit the fleet early in the race, killing six sailors and sinking five yachts.
Four boats had retired from the original 94-yacht fleet that left Sydney Harbour on Thursday.