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Wild Oats XI claims first blood

By AAP .
26 December 2013 06:43PM EST

BEAU Geste was showing all the bluster and confidence of the young upstart desperate to make an early and lasting impression.

With the smoke from the starter's gun for the 69th Sydney to Hobart race still swirling in the clearing sky, Hong Kong's Beau Geste, in her first race outing, was hammering up the harbour.

From the midnight black deck of the sleek Botin 80 the harbour shoreline and cliffs crammed with spectators must have passed as a confetti blur, the flotilla of spectator craft left behind as if treading water.

Karl Kwok's 80-footer inched past, even gapped, mighty line honours favourite Wild Oats XI at one point after the supermaxi had flexed her early race muscles and for more than a fleeting moment Beau Geste threatened to wrench bragging rights as first boat through the Sydney Heads from Wild Oats skipper Mark Richards and his crew.

As 94-boat fleet approached the harbour's final north marker buoy before the trip south, Sydney was putting on a stunning show; expected showers hadn't eventuated and a breezy overcast morning had opened up to a sunny summer's day.

It was a fitting backdrop to one of the most exciting and eventful Sydney to Hobart starts for several years.

After sharing the start with Wild Oats XI and Syd Fischer's Ragamuffin, fellow supermaxi Perpetual LOYAL had a red protest flag flapping angrily as the lead boats flew north towards Manly.

Newcomer Beau Geste had grabbed the lead but Wild Oats found another gear and pushed and shoved and when it mattered to be half a boat length in front when the Channel Seven choppers pounced for the money shot.

Seeking a seventh line honours win, defending champion Wild Oats XI spirited out of the grandest harbour of them all with her white nose in front, crew members clad from red in head to toe, hanging joyfully from the starboard side.

As the spectator craft continued to race the fleet headlong into the 18 knot southerly, past Macquarie Lighthouse and on towards Bondi Beach, their day on the water was coming to an end.

For the competitors in one of the world's iconic ocean races, their day and battle with mother nature was only just commencing with some very testing weather conditions waiting for them further down the coast.

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