Ichi Ban overall winner of controversy-hit Sydney-Hobart yacht race

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Ichi Ban (right) was the overall handicap winner of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race (AFP/DAVID GRAY)

Ichi Ban was confirmed Saturday as the overall handicap winner of the gruelling Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race, pipping rival Celestial which finished faster but was hit by a time penalty.

It was the third Sydney-Hobart handicap victory for the 52-foot (15.9-metre) Ichi Ban, owned and skippered by Matt Allen.

But the win was overshadowed by controversy because of the penalty against Celestial, imposed after protests were lodged by Ichi Ban and by the race organisers.

"To win with Ichi Ban a third time is unbelievable. It's always better, ideally, not to go into the room to decide," Ichi Ban's Allen said Friday.

On Saturday, an international jury rejected a bid by Celestial to reopen the penalty hearing after it added an extra 40 minutes to the boat's time on Friday, relegating it to second place.

The time penalty was given because Celestial's crew failed to answer radio communication for more than an hour after a personal locator beacon on the yacht had been set off by mistake.

Ichi Ban's time, by contrast, was reduced by three minutes because it had helped to contact Celestial, including by setting off a flare.

"I am very, very disappointed," said Sam Haynes, owner and skipper of 52-foot Celestial, after the jury decided not to reopen the penalty hearing.

"None of us want to see technical issues occur that take away an on-water result."

Supermaxi Black Jack was first to cross the finishing line on Tuesday after racing in tough conditions that forced many yachts to withdraw.

But the main prize for sailors is regarded as the overall handicap honours, which takes account of the yachts' sizes.

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