The Heavenly Hopeful Sydney to Hobart captain says he’s devastated after facing a time penalty that has effectively denied the victory of the crew in the famous race.
Celestial was penalized 40 minutes after a protest filed by likely handicap honors winner Ichi Ban and the race committee for violating race communication rules was confirmed Friday morning.
‘SHOCKING’: Cricket World in disbelief at the sad news of Quinton De Kock
‘MIX OF EMOTIONS’: Sam Stosur confirms huge Australian Open rumor
Celestial led Ichi Ban in the overall standings after the pair arrived in Hobart on Wednesday just minutes apart.
But he has been relegated to second place behind Ichi Ban, although the result has yet to be formally declared.
Celestial skipper and owner Sam Haynes said that while he respected the international jury’s decision, it was a “very, very difficult penalty to swallow.”
“As far as I am concerned, the decision stands. There is nothing I can do about it,” he told reporters.
“It’s a devastating moment. I’ve been trying to win this race for 10 years.”
Both protests were related to a race rule that requires competitors to maintain constant radio contact.
However, Haynes said his crew was unaware that he couldn’t listen to the radio and always ran with a safety first approach, insisting that the problem wasn’t limited to his yacht.
“The communication problems in this race weren’t just isolated from Celestial,” he said.
“I have been sailing in blue waters for a long time. It happens continuously.”
The race committee was notified by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) on Monday evening that a crew member aboard the Celestial had activated a personal locator beacon (PLB).
The committee was unable to contact Celestial initially and asked Ichi Ban, who was sailing nearby, to contact the yacht via VHF radio.
Ichi Ban made contact about 90 minutes after AMSA’s initial notification after launching a flare that caught Celestial’s attention.
Ichi Ban files protest against Celestial
The PLB was confirmed to have been accidentally activated and AMSA was told to recall the search and rescue aircraft.
The jury found that Celestial did not hear any attempts to contact her on VHF during the incident.
He stated that Ichi Ban did not alter his course as a result of the incident, but did prepare and deploy two flares that “temporarily affected his performance”.
The race committee noted that another 12 PLBs were accidentally activated during the race and, in each case, the boat responded within 25 minutes.
Haynes said he thanked Ichi Ban for lighting the flare and alerting them to the problem.
“I thought it was a gesture of good sportsmanship, and it was. But I didn’t realize we were going to a) protest them or b) be protested by the racing committee,” he said.
“Actually, it’s not good for the sport to have these technicalities, things that people are really going to find difficult to understand.
“This is Australia’s most important race, potentially one of the most important races in the world, and it is.”
Ichi Ban arrived in Hobart with his protest flag hoisted, but skipper Matt Allen did not initially indicate whether one would be staying.
It could become the first yacht to claim consecutive overall victories in 57 years.
In 2017, a successful protest over a close collision resulted in the Wild Oats XI supermaxi charging a penalty of one hour and losing line honors to LDV Comanche.
Click here to subscribe to our newsletter to receive the latest and greatest stories from Australia and around the world.