The race rules say clearly that on all yachts a transponder should be receiving and emitting an AIS signal during the entire race, a thing that can be easily controlled by the race committee. The first yacht to arrive, Wild Oats XI had not complied with that rule.
The race committee was informed that had happened, has verified independently the fact through the AIS public register and filed a protest. The protest was not considered because: "for the protest to be valid under racing rules of sailing, a competitor with the information about a potential rule breach must lodge a protest".
If this is true it is simply ridiculous and it shows the incredible amateurism of a race that is among the biggest worldwide by the quality of the boats and crews. The organization, through the racing committee, had sure knowledge that a boat had not complied with the rules and even so no penalty was attributed? Who is responsible to enforce the rules?
Regarding the race itself, on the changing light winds that were experienced on the final part of the race, Wild Oats XI was lucky to have chosen the best route on approaching the river Derwent, but the inexistence of an AIS signal blinded the other nearby yachts to that change of course and prevented them to eventually cover that move.
Also on the light and changing winds that demand a lot of maneuvering Wild Oats automatic winches (that are illegal everywhere except here) allowed for an unfair advantage. For the ones that don’t know, some call the Wild Oats XI a power boat, due to the need of having his engines running permanently to power the systems, including sail systems.
So, the victory on the Sydney Hobart went to Alive, an "old" Reichel Pugh 66 followed by an also “old” Wild Oates X, the ladies’ boat, with an entire feminine crew, who curiously spent much of the race fighting against Alive.
Of course everyone knows that who really won the race, despite having broken the rules, was the much faster and more modern Wild Oates XI. What many don’t know is that formally it was not the case because the winner of Sydney Hobart is not the one that arrives first but the one who wins in IRC, one of three handicap formulas used in the race.
The situation is odd. It is given much more importance to the classification at the arrival, which euphemistically is called, "line honors", than to the classification on one of the used handicaps, where old boats can be benefited by an inadequate handicap or by different meteorological conditions that can be experienced by slower boats.
The handicap classification was created to ensure that what counted was the performance of the crew, not the performance of the boat but everyone knows that it does not work. Of course, no matter how good the women's race has been, no one believes they could have been much better than the best teams, namely Comanche and Wild Oates XI, but they finished in 2nd place while Wild Oates XI was 11th and Comanche 20th.
Maintaining this type of classifications, based on handicap, makes sense in club racing but not on top races and I believe that on major races it is a question of time till they become obsolete. In fact they are already obsolete.
In some sail races instead of considering divisions by handicap they are considering divisions by the length of the boat. It makes sense since the best and most professional crews already have the fastest boats and therefore it does not make sense to attribute false advantages to less efficient crews in slower boats, not to speak of the nonsense of the boats being designed not to be as efficient and as fast as possible but to better adapt to a given set of rules.