Yachting: Wind taken from Wild Thing's sails

By Adrian Warren

Super maxi sensationally ruled out of Sydney-to-Hobart race at 11th hour because of missing documentation.

Wild Oats XI was first out of Sydney Harbour at the start of the classic yesterday. Photo / Rolex Yachting
Wild Oats XI was first out of Sydney Harbour at the start of the classic yesterday. Photo / Rolex Yachting

Furious skipper Grant Wharington says he felt blindsided after his super maxi Wild Thing was sensationally ruled out of the Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race.

The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's (CYCA) race committee made the decision to pull the 2003 line honours winner just three hours before the official start, citing a failure of the boat's owners to produce sufficient documentation regarding its design and build modifications.

"We are absolutely devastated to be told at the 11th hour that we are unable to race to Hobart," Wharington said. "Would you believe we have been offered to sail down the course and we can go on into the radio skeds and leave the tracker on [and not compete for line honours] which is an insult.

"We're a bit stuck for words as to why it happened, the situation, we provided the documentation - I've got it in my hand.

"We were given approval ... that we were able to go and then subsequently [it was] withdrawn, so we're obviously devastated."

CYCA commodore Howard Piggott delivered the news while Wharington had his phone switched off, the skipper giving his crew a pre-race briefing at the time.

"As everybody turned their phones back on just before 11 o'clock, hundreds of messages from everybody saying, 'It's all over the press, we've been knocked out' - and we were absolutely dumbfounded," Wharington said.

Piggott said Wharington, the boat's owner, had failed to provide the necessary statements that Wild Thing was designed and built in accordance with the American Bureau of Shipping guide.

"The race committee has worked with the owner of the boat, Grant Wharington, to allow him up to three hours prior to the start of the race to provide the documentation required," Piggott said. "However, this has not been forthcoming - the race committee has no option but to not accept the entry of Wild Thing."

Wild Thing had undergone a number of changes and been lengthened to the permitted maximum of 30.4m.

Piggott said the race committee's decision was final.

"We made every effort, I assure you. We want to see boats racing," Piggott said.

"However it's out of our hands, we must comply with the notice of race and ensure that our safety standards are maintained."

Most betting agencies had Wild Thing as third favourite for the race after Wild Oats XI and Ragamuffin Loyal.

Wild Thing had not raced since being modified.

Wharington has had a sometimes strained relationship with the Bluewater Classic.

In 2004 Wharington and his crew were forced to pull the pin on the race due to keel problems and in 2009 the skipper had to race the clock to replace a mast broken during the yacht's delivery from Melbourne to Sydney. Two years ago Wild Thing was involved in a collision with a media boat.

Favourite Wild Oats XI was first out of Sydney Harbour yesterday, ahead of fellow super maxi and defending champion Ragamuffin Loyal.

With spinnakers up, the 76-yacht fleet weaved its way around thousands of spectator craft before heading out to the Tasman Sea for the 628-nautical mile race.

Five-time line honours champion Wild Oats XI's race record from 2005 is one day, 18 hours, 40 minutes, 10 seconds - a time that could be in danger of falling this year, given the favourable weather forecasts.

Ragamuffin Loyal is skippered by 85-year-old Syd Fischer, who is taking part in his 44th Sydney to Hobart race.


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