Sailing: Sydney-Hobart protest dismissed, Investec Loyal official winner

SYDNEY: Australian supermaxi Investec Loyal’s victory in the Sydney-Hobart was upheld on Thursday when a protest claiming its crew asked a media helicopter pilot to spy on a rival was dismissed.

A relieved Investec Loyal skipper Anthony Bell said a three-hour international yacht racing committee hearing had cleared his boat of any wrongdoing.

Investec Loyal’s win on Wednesday was the closest in 28 years, crossing the line in the 680 nautical mile race only minutes ahead of supermaxi Wild Oats XI.

“The full committee has dismissed the protest and announced us the win,” Bell told reporters in Hobart after the hearing.

“It’s an against-the-odds victory for us. We felt when we left the dock on Boxing Day that we were going to do good this year.”

The protest claimed that an Investec Loyal crew member asked the helicopter pilot whether Wild Oats XI was using a tri-sail as the two boats sailed down the Australian east coast on Tuesday morning.

Under yacht racing rules such a request could be viewed as outside assistance.

The committee ruled that the crewman’s question was not aimed at gaining a racing advantage but was linked to his business as he had sold the sail to Wild Oats XI.

Wild Oats XI had led the race from the start on Monday, with Investec Loyal only gaining the lead in fickle winds in the later stages. The two boats engaged in a nail-biting tacking duel to the finish line in Hobart.

“It was a great moment that got cut short,” said Bell.

“But I’d prefer if there was a question mark on anything in the race that it was dealt with properly, rather than it overlooked. You won’t want to hear about it in years to come.

“No matter what they say, ‘we won on the water, don’t worry about what happens in the room’, what happens in the room does matter.”

Investec Loyal took two days, six hours, 14 minutes and 18 seconds to finish the race, well outside the record of one day, 18 hours and 40 minutes.


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