Wild Oats XI has won the Sydney to Hobart yacht race and has become the first boat in the history of the Australian competition to win the title four consecutive years. Commemorations have also been held to remember the tragic race in 1998, in which six sailors died during the iconic blue water event.
Though the race was won, it was not all smooth sailing for Wild Oats XI. The giant 90-meter super maxi had to overcome an encounter with a shark, which became entangled in its rudder, to complete the 628-nautical mile race.
Wild Oats XI clocked a time of one day, 20 hours and 34 minutes, well ahead of its nearest rival and just outside the competition record it set in 2005.
No boat in the history of the event, which began in 1945, has ever claimed victory in four successive years.
Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards says this year's race was demanding and is relieved to have fought off the challenge of second-placed Skandia.
"No question it was the toughest race by a country mile. Just having to work that hard was fantastic and the boys didn't give up for a second, even when the chips were down.," he said. "Yesterday afternoon, before the shark, they were about eight miles in front of us. You know, within two hours of getting the shark off, we were five miles in front of them. So, you know, very positive and it was just a great thing to be a part of."
Vast crowds watched the 100-strong fleet set sail from Sydney harbor on Friday. Some of the smaller boats could be at sea for a few more days yet.
So far, two vessels have retired from the arduous journey down Australia's unpredictable southeast coast. The crew on board the New Zealand-built entrant "Georgia" had to be rescued from their sinking craft by fellow competitors. It is thought the yacht smashed its rudder after hitting a whale.
This year's dash from Sydney to the Tasmanian city of Hobart marks the 10th anniversary of a race in which six sailors died during a wild storm.
Several boats sank and more than 50 competitors had to be plucked to safety by helicopters in one of Australia's biggest peacetime rescue missions. Wreaths have been laid at sea and a minute's silence has been held to remember the victims of a race that some survivors still refer to as 'hell on high water.'