Dirty Laundry, Down Under

Published on October 12th, 2014

(October 12, 2014) – It was the high-profile sailing partnership that promised a return to the glory days of its maiden win in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race.

But the Australian team behind the drama-plagued 100-footer Wild Thing has imploded in a mire of bankruptcy, financial disputes, and accusations of incompetence that famously saw the vessel disqualified just three hours before the start of the 2012 race.

The boat’s skipper Grant Wharington has been bankrupted following a disastrous property project in Victoria and has fallen out royally with the boat’s alleged owner David Price over finances and the failures of Wild Thing.

Mr Wharington’s affairs are now being scrutinised by bankruptcy trustee Pitcher Partners and Mr Price appeared as a witness at his bankruptcy examination in the Federal Court of Australia on Wednesday, October 8.

Under questioning by lawyer Innis Cull, Mr Price blamed Mr Wharington for the team being disqualified from the 2012 race, which he believes Wild Thing would have won.

Officials ruled team Wild Thing had not properly submitted their paperwork, but Mr Price told the court Mr Wharington included false information on documents about modifications he had made to the boat, leading to them being disqualified.

“We were disqualified because he was inept in building and helping to build the boat,” Mr Price said. “His representations were incorrect, he lied on documents and … the racing commissioner … forbid us from entering, causing great distress to everybody involved.”

Mr Wharington had lengthened the boat to 100ft and Mr Price told the court: “We were led to believe by him that he was capable of doing the works. It wasn’t until the boat was in pieces that we found out he wasn’t.”

The boat is in dock with keel issues – a delay likely to be extended due to a lack of paperwork when he bought the boat from Wharington Properties for a “distressed price”, Mr Price said in court.

Wild Thing took line honours in the 2003 Sydney to Hobart under the name Skandia but has been plagued by disaster since. It capsized in 2004, lost a mast in 2009, collided with a media boat in 2010 and was forced to retire in 2011.

Mr Wharington was bankrupted in May 2011 after he was sued by Vero Insurance for more than $260,000. The amount related to money Vero paid out to homeowners who bought properties, with significant defects, in one of Mr Wharington’s developments at Paterson Lakes in Victoria.

The examination heard disputed claims about the value and ownership of Wild Thing, which is at risk of falling into the trustee’s hands. Mr Price’s company, BC-39, allegedly bought the boat from Wharington Properties for about $40,000, despite estimates valuing it at more than $1 million, the court heard. But shipping records showed it was still listed as being owned by the company.

The allegations were not put to Mr Wharington in court and he did not answer calls yesterday. Mr Price’s accusations were not put to Mr Wharington in evidence. Repeated calls to Mr Wharington yesterday were not answered.

Source: Daily Telegraph

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