- Investec Loyal takes line honors in Rolex Sydney-Hobart yacht race
- Five-time winner Wild Oats XI finishes second in Tasmanian capital
- Three minutes eight seconds separated the first two
- Line honors victory under protest over incident involving TV helicopter
Investec Loyal took line honors in the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Ocean classic Wednesday but faces an anxious wait to have the victory confirmed after an official protest by the race committee.
Anthony Bell's super maxi crossed the finish line in the Tasmanian capital with a three minutes seven second advantage over five-time winner Wild Oats XI, one of the closest finishes in the race's history.
But the moment of glory at Constitution Dock was short-lived as a representative of the committee immediately notified him of the protest.
A crew member on Investec Loyal is alleged to have asked an Australian Broadcasting Corporation helicopter, who were covering the race for television, for information about the sails being deployed by Wild Oats XI.
The incident occurred early on Tuesday morning local time as both the super maxis battled for the lead in testing conditions.
"This is assessed to breach (rule) 41 by soliciting help from an outside source," read a statement on the official race website.
The protest hearing will be held by the International Jury at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania at 10.00 local time Thursday.
Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) commodore Garry Linacre told the crowd what had happened.
"Some minutes ago I received this copy of a protest form. It is a protest form for the Rolex Sydney Hobart 2011, the organizing authority of the CYCA.
"The Race Committee, which is chaired by Tim Cox, has protested that rules may have been infringed on the 27th December at 06:30 hours, 30 nautical miles south of Merimbula. There is an ABC chopper pilot that is a nominated witness.
"I am very sorry about this event, I can assure you. Unfortunately, that has stopped our celebration here, as the result comes provisional until the protest is heard tomorrow," he said.
Linacre went on to pay tribute to Investec Loyal for their "magnificent sailing" in this race and also Wild Oats XI.
Skipper Bell claimed the conversation with the TV crew had just been "a question of are they alright and have they lost any mainsails" following rough conditions on the first night which saw a number of boats retire.
"We respect the fact that there's laws in racing... and we will of course go in and oblige that, and we're confident that the outcome will confirm our (win)," Bell told gathered reporters.
"One thing that can't be taken away from us is that we raced one hell of a race out there, and we did everything by the book."
Wild Oats' skipper Mark Richards told the official website that Investec Loyal was a deserved winner.
"Those guys won on the water, we came second. That's how we think about it. They deserve to win," he said.
"Last night was a tough night. We had a fantastic lead and we ran into the new weather system and there was just no air. The other guys saw what was going on and just sailed around us.
The two super maxis had fought a thrilling tactical duel along Australia's east coast with the lead changing hand several times throughout the 628 nautical miles.
Investec Loyal took the lead for the first time on Tuesday night after the pair had broken away from the rest of the 88-strong fleet from the start in Sydney Harbor on Boxing Day.
Light winds and the traditional difficult run to the finish on the Derwent River left the outcome in doubt to the very end, even before the protest.
2010 runner-up Investec Loyal crossed the line in two days, six hours, 14 minutes and 18 seconds, way outside the 2005 race record set by Wild Oats XI.
The smallest margin of victory was back in 1982 when Condor of Bermuda pipped Apollo by just seven seconds.
A separate prize for victory on handicap is also awarded as the entrants in various categories battle it out to the finish in Hobart.