Investec Loyal was confirmed as the line honors winner of this year’s Sydney to Hobart yacht race after a protest accusing a crew member of seeking outside assistance was dismissed.
An international jury ruled after a hearing today that Loyal didn’t breach race rules when its tactician asked a television helicopter crew about the sail setup on rival supermaxi Wild Oats XI. Loyal beat Wild Oats to the line by 3 minutes, 8 seconds yesterday in the closest finish since 1982.
“It was great moment that got cut short,” Loyal owner and skipper Anthony Bell said at a televised news conference after the hearing. “In saying that, I’d prefer if there was a question mark to have actually dealt with it properly and gone through a process like this.”
The race committee had lodged the protest against Loyal for allegedly soliciting help from an outside source. Bell, the chief executive officer of Sydney-based financial services firm Bell Partners, said that Loyal’s tactician Michael Coxon had inquired about the sails on Wild Oats out of concern because he’s the managing director of the company that supplied them.
In a recording posted on the Australian Broadcasting Corp.’s website, Coxon is heard asking: “Can you confirm, does Wild Oats have their trysail up? What color is the sail, the mainsail they’ve got up?”
“Michael Coxon’s question was not to gain any advantage for our boat at all but rather to test and check how the product that they bought off him was going,” Bell said. “He doesn’t charge any money to sail with us. His day job is selling sails and I can understand why it was bothering him.”
The jury agreed, saying that it was “satisfied that the question asked by Michael Coxon was based on commercial concerns and not for reasons of race information.”
Since leaving Sydney Harbour on Dec. 26, 100-foot (30- meter) supermaxi rivals had dueled for the lead in the 67th edition of the race that takes competitors down Australia’s southeast coast and across Bass Strait to the island state of Tasmania.
It was the second straight year that the first boat to finish faced a challenge to its victory. Wild Oats claimed its fifth win from six starts in 2010 after a jury dismissed a protest that it breached the rules.
“We will continue to keep the governance of this sport at the highest level,” Garry Linacre, commodore of race organizer the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, told reporters after the hearing.
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