A comment by Black Jack owner, Peter Harburg, on the dock after four supermaxis finished the 2018 Rolex Sydney Hobart has hung a black cloud over Wild Oats XI's ninth line honours victory.
Harburg claimed that Oats had ceased to transmit an AIS signal from the boat, in contravention of the race sailing instructions. The rules clearly state that all boats must carry the system, which identifies the boat and her position to neighbouring craft, and it must be turned on at all times.
Harburg said the Queensland-based Black Jack, which came in 28 minutes after Wild Oats XI, wanted the race committee to examine the issue but that “it's not our job to protest”.
“If you are going to win the race you should win it according to the rules … it should be fair,” he told ABC Hobart.
Harburg said it was “a pity that such a great race as this, which has been a close race with all of us changing position all the way down… got bad at the end because someone just doesn't have any regard for the rules”.
The advantage to a yacht of not having her position known by her competitors is that she could “go invisible” and make a tactical move that the others could not cover. Under cover of darkness, Wild Oats made a race-winning move to the east of the other three supermaxis.
Infotrack owner, Christian Beck also that they had noticed Wild Oats was not transmitting, but said it had no bearing on the race win, as Oats was in sight of the other leaders “at all times”.
Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards rejected the claim, telling ABC Hobart that Black Jack could “do and say what they like”.
“[AIS being switched on] is not a mandatory thing (which is incorrect)… we were in sight of each other the whole race, it was that close,” Richards said, describing the accusation as a “storm in a teacup”.
Late last night (Friday December 28) the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, the organising authority for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, advised that Race Committee has lodged a protest against Wild Oats XI.
“The Race Committee received a report from the owner of Black Jack advising that Wild Oats XI’s AIS had not transmitted throughout the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2018,” the media release stated. “On investigation, and based on its own evidence, the Race Committee considers there may have been a breach of S.I. 11.4 in respect of Special Regulation 4.09 (a).”
The CYCA Commodore, Paul Billingham explained: “The Race Committee is independent of the organising authority of the race to ensure objectivity is maintained and seen to be maintained in circumstances such as this.”
The protest will be held in the Jury Room at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania on Saturday 29 December at 1300hrs.
– Roger McMillan in Hobart