Sydney - Hobart Finish...Investec LOYAL takes line honours in race number 67

  • Posted by Richard Neilan
  • December 28, 2011 8:09 PM AEDT

A rare duel on the Derwent ended this evening with Investec LOYAL narrowly edging Wild Oats XI in one of the tightest finishes in Sydney to Hobart race history.Eyeballing each other since sunrise, less than a nautical mile separated the supermaxis as they headed for what is believed to be the first deciding tussle on the Derwent River since 1997.

LOYAL rounded Tasman Island at 3.36pm (AEDT), seven minutes ahead of the race record holder, and tellingly both boats estimated their time of arrival at 7.30pm.LOYAL had hit the front again just before 3pm after Wild Oats reclaimed the lead from its rival this morning.But a tactical tussle in light and changeable conditions kept LOYAL in the hunt.‘‘Swings and roundabouts - every time we get a little break, they come back,’’ a Wild Oats crew member posted on Twitter.

Officials said the last battle on the Derwent had occurred when Brindabella beat Exile in 1997.

The narrowest ever winning margin of seven seconds, set in 1982, also looked in danger.Earlier, Wild Oats navigator Ian Burns had described how LOYAL had stayed on his boat’s tail.‘‘They’re doing a nice job down there keeping their options open, keeping as much distance between us and them as possible so that if they have an opportunity they can make the most of it,’’ he said.‘‘It makes it hard to match them.‘‘It’s tough tactically, relatively easy sailing for the crew but hard tactically.’’Another supermaxi, Lahana, was third, 50 nautical miles back, while 17m yacht Living Doll led on handicap.

Four more boats had retired overnight, taking the number forced out to 11.

Pretty Fly III headed back to Sydney when a crew member suffered a knee injury.It was joined in pulling out of the race by ColorTile, Alchemy III and Elektra.Shepherd Centre is continuing to Hobart despite radio problems but won’t earn points.