Defending champion Wild Oats XI has taken line honours in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race for a record-equaling seventh time.

The super maxi won by more than 30 nautical miles on Saturday.

Wild Oats, owned by wine mogul Bob Oatley, who is head of the Australian syndicate challenging for the next America's Cup, crossed the finish line in the 628-nautical-mile race in 2 days, 6 hours, 7 minutes.

We've got a great future, more wins.

Bob Oatley, Wild Oats owner

Thousands on the Hobart waterfront for the island capital's holiday season festivals cheered on the crew of 20, who have a combined 250 Sydney to Hobart races among them.

Wild Oats set the race record last year when it finished in one day, 18 hours, but light winds this year left that mark well out of reach.

The other yacht to win seven Sydney to Hobart races was Morna/Kurrewa IV, the first time in 1946 and the last in 1960.

Rival super maxi Perpetual Loyal was expected to finish second.

Oatley said at the finish line at Constitution Dock that fluctuating weather conditions left his boat's line honor chances in doubt.

The 86-year-old said the crew was worried until they got across the line because it is such a difficult race.

"We lost the lead the first night out with difficult weather conditions," Oatley said.

"Then we were happy to pick it up again and improve on it which we have done all day."

He said the crew would be back to attempt to make it eight wins next year.

"We've got a great future, more wins," he said.

"It's beautiful, it's wonderfully built."

Anthony Bell's Perpetual Loyal, which led for some of the first 24 hours of the race, finished second, more than three hours behind after having been 33 nautical miles back when Wild Oats crossed the line.

The back of the fleet, mostly smaller yachts, was bracing for southwesterly gale-force winds to hit Bass Strait later on Saturday.

The weather bureau forecast winds of up to 40 knots (75 kilometres per hour) and seas up to four metres.


Four boats had retired from the original 94-yacht fleet that left Sydney Harbour on Thursday.

Source: AP