CONTROVERSY. LDV Comanche (right) and Wild Oats XI narrowly miss each other as they tack outside the heads at the start of the 73rd annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race in Sydney. Photo: Brendan Esposito/BackpagePix
CONTROVERSY. LDV Comanche (right) and Wild Oats XI narrowly miss each other as they tack outside the heads at the start of the 73rd annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race in Sydney. Photo: Brendan Esposito/BackpagePix
LDV Comanche (R) and Wild Oats XI during their controversial tussle at the start of the Sydney to Hobart race. Photo: Brendan Esposito/BackpagePix
LDV Comanche (R) and Wild Oats XI during their controversial tussle at the start of the Sydney to Hobart race. Photo: Brendan Esposito/BackpagePix

SYDNEY – Supermaxi Wild Oats XI finished the gruelling Sydney to Hobart race in record time late Wednesday, but confirmation of its ninth line honours win will be delayed by a protest from second-placed LDV Comanche.

Wild Oats completed the 628-nautical mile (1,163-kilometre) bluewater classic in a time of 1 day, 8hrs, 48min and 50sec, several hours inside the previous record set last year.

The 100-footers had been in a fierce battle down Australia's east coast to the finish line at Hobart's Constitution Dock Wednesday, swapping the lead several times.

But the epic contest might not be over, with Comanche set to lodge a protest against Wild Oats following a near-collision exiting Sydney Heads on Tuesday in which the latter boat appeared to tack too close to her rival.

An international jury is expected to assess the evidence at a hearing Thursday, local media reported.

With Comanche finishing just 26min and 34sec behind Wild Oats, a possible punishment such as a time penalty could determine which yacht is crowned the winner.

LDV Comanche (R) and Wild Oats XI during their controversial tussle at the start of the Sydney to Hobart race. Photo: Brendan Esposito/BackpagePix
LDV Comanche (R) and Wild Oats XI during their controversial tussle at the start of the Sydney to Hobart race. Photo: Brendan Esposito/BackpagePix

“I think (the incident) was totally innocent and we should be able to defend ourselves against that situation pretty clearly,” Wild Oats skipper Mark Richards told reporters in Hobart. “We did exactly what we had to do in that situation -- keep the boat safe and in one piece -- and that's what we did. I'm not concerned about it at all. If those guys want to protest... that's their call.”

The 103-strong fleet, whittled down to 100 after three yachts retired, benefited from ideal wind conditions after a spectacular start from Sydney Harbour on Tuesday.

The favourable weather had raised expectations the 2016 record time of 1 day 13hr 31min 20sec, set by Perpetual Loyal (renamed InfoTrack this year), would easily be broken.

The fast-paced race slowed significantly as the big boats entered the notoriously sluggish Derwent River in Hobart, but this did not stop Wild Oats from comfortably smashing the record.

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