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Investec Loyal Wins Sydney to Hobart Race, Faces Protest

Investec Loyal Wins Sydney to Hobart Race
Investec Loyal leads the fleet out of Sydney Harbour in second place during the 2011 Sydney To Hobart race on Dec. 26, 2011 in Sydney. Photographer: Andrea Francolini/Getty Images

Investec Loyal yesterday claimed its first Sydney to Hobart line honors win in the closest finish in 29 years, though faces a protest from the yacht race’s committee for receiving outside assistance.

The 100-foot (30-meter) supermaxi, owned and skippered by Anthony Bell and last year’s runner-up, finished the 628-nautical mile event in 2 days, 6 hours, 14 minutes and 18 seconds. It was 3 minutes and 8 seconds ahead of pre-race favorite Wild Oats XI. Organizers said it was the narrowest victory margin since 1982.

The race committee later lodged a protest against Loyal, accusing it of asking an Australian Broadcasting Corp. helicopter crew about the sails Wild Oats XI was using, organizers said. A hearing will take place today at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania in Hobart.

“We respect that there are rules in racing,” Bell said in comments distributed by organizers. “We are confident the outcome will confirm our victory in the race.”

It’s the second straight year that the first boat to finish has faced a challenge to its victory. Wild Oats XI claimed its fifth win from six starts in 2010 after a jury dismissed a protest that it breached the rules.

Duel for Lead

Since leaving Sydney Harbour on Dec. 26, Loyal and Wild Oats XI 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.

Three years ago, Wild Oats XI became the first boat to beat the fleet to Hobart four years in a row. It finished as the 2009 runner-up to New Zealand’s Alfa Romeo.

The record for most line honors wins is held by Morna/Kurrewa IV, which sailed to seven victories under two different owners and two different names, the last time in 1960 as Kurrewa IV.

Of the 88 starters that began the race, 11 have so far retired, among them line honors contender Wild Thing and Hong Kong entrant Freefire 52, race organizers said.

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