Yachting: Perpetual Loyal wins Sydney-Hobart honours in record time

The crew aboard the yacht Perpetual Loyal react as they hit a wave sailing out of Sydney Harbour during the start of the annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht race, Australia's premiere bluewater classic, in Australia, on Dec 26, 2016.
The crew aboard the yacht Perpetual Loyal react as they hit a wave sailing out of Sydney Harbour during the start of the annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht race, Australia's premiere bluewater classic, in Australia, on Dec 26, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian supermaxi Perpetual Loyal smashed the race record by almost five hours when it took out line honours in the gruelling Sydney to Hobart race early Wednesday (Dec 28), after eight-time winner Wild Oats XI retired. 

Loyal, a long-time rival of favourite Wild Oats, put to bed her failure to finish the past two races when the 100-footer arrived at Hobart’s Constitution Dock in a record time of 1 day 13hrs 31mins 20secs. 

“Mission accomplished! Huge congrats to the Perpetual Loyal crew winning line honours at the 72nd #RolexSydneyHobart,” Loyal tweeted after the yacht powered towards the finish line at 20 knots. 

The new finish time for the 628-nautical-mile (1,163-kilometre) event was four hours and 51 minutes faster than the previous record of 1 day 18hrs 23mins 12secs set in 2012 by Wild Oats. 

New Zealand’s Giacomo and Hong Kong businessman Seng Huang Lee’s entrant Scallywag are next due to cross the finish line, and also complete the race within the 2012 record. 

Loyal had benefited from favourable winds that saw the race leaders tear down Australia’s east coast after departing Sydney Harbour on Monday.  Owned and skippered by Anthony Bell, Loyal was first into the open ocean followed by Hong Kong-owned Scallywag followed by Wild Oats. 

Wild Oats edged into the lead amid freshening northerly winds, but in a bitter blow, its hydraulic keel control mechanism failed when it was in the middle of the Bass Strait.  Citing the safety of the crew, skipper Mark Richards made the call to retire from the race on Tuesday morning, with the yacht arriving at the town of Eden some 480 kilometres south of Sydney early Wednesday. 

It was the second-straight year Wild Oats had to pull out from the bluewater classic, with a mainsail rip thwarting her ambitions in 2015.  The line honours instead went to America’s Comanche, which did not take part in this year’s contest. 

But half the world-class crew of Comanche returned to the Sydney to Hobart on board Loyal, after Bell brought them in this year in a bid to become more competitive.  This year’s win is the second for Bell, the head of an accountancy firm, who took out line honours in 2011 with Investec Loyal – the first time he sailed in the race.