Wild Oats XI smashed the Sydney to Hobart race record to claim line honours for the ninth time, but the comeback win is yet to be officially ratified amid a protest from runner-up LDV Comanche.
Wild Oats XI crossed the finish line in Hobart at 9.48pm on Wednesday, slashing almost five hours off the time set by Perpetual LOYAL last year.
It came from behind to pip LDV Comanche in a nail-biting duel up the River Derwent.
Fuelled by a strong north-easterly, the pair were neck and neck down Tasmania's east coast on Wednesday afternoon.
They entered the River Derwent where a lighter Wild Oats XI picked up a breeze to crawl into first place as her wider rival slowed to a near halt.
Richards said he "couldn't bloody believe it" when Wild Oats XI passed LDV Comanche with about five nautical miles to go.
"They had the most powerful boat by a country mile," Richards said.
"We were in touch at Storm Bay, maybe two or three miles ahead and then all of a sudden the dream came true of seeing the Derwent with no wind in it - for the first time in 13 years.
"It was a tricky, tricky situation and Wild Oats was just a better boat in those conditions."
Wild Oats XI overcame a damaged sail to cross the line in one day, eight hours, 48 minutes and 50 seconds with LDV Comanche 26 minutes behind.
Five boats in total including Black Jack, InfoTrack and Beau Geste bettered the previous mark of one day, 13 hours, 31 minutes and 20 seconds.
But Wild Oats XI, which had to withdraw from the 2015 and 2016 races with damage, could face a time penalty of five minutes or more after LDV Comanche launched a protest over a near-collision just after the race's start in Sydney Harbour.
The boats came perilously close to crashing into each other about 15 minutes into the race on Boxing Day.
An international jury will hear the protest at 3pm AEDT on Thursday.
"It was a pretty obvious infringement of the rules, I am pretty confident of that," LDV Comanche owner and skipper Jim Cooney told reporters moments after stepping off the boat at Hobart's Constitution Dock.
But Richards, who was at the helm for Wild Oats XI's two other race records, brushed off protest concerns.
"There's an incident there which I think was totally innocent and we should be able to defend ourselves," he said.
"If we thought it was a blatant infringement we would have done our turn.
"I'm not concerned about it at all.''
Matt Allen's latest Ichi Ban crossed the line shortly after 8am on Thursday and is in top spot overall but a number of boats that could top it are yet to finish.