Wild Oats XI leads Sydney-Hobart yacht race

Seven-time champion overtakes American Comanche on second day of annual race.

    The crew of Wild Oats XI left Sydney Harbour in second place to Comanche at the start of the race [AP]
    The crew of Wild Oats XI left Sydney Harbour in second place to Comanche at the start of the race [AP]

    Seven-time champion Wild Oats XI edged ahead of American super maxi Comanche on the second day of the annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race, with Comanche skipper Ken Read calling it a "very frustrating day".

    Comanche, which was launched in October and is being tested in race conditions for the first time, led defending champion Wild Oats XI for much of the race since its start Friday in Sydney Harbour.

    But by late afternoon Saturday, Wild Oats opened up a 30-nautical-mile lead over the American boat, with both yachts completing nearly half of the 628-nautical-mile race to Hobart, the capital of the island state of Tasmania.

    "We've had better days, that's for sure,'' Read said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "It's been increasingly frustrating. There are troughs that moved over top of us and sucked us all in instead of moving us ahead. But the boat has been spectacular. 

    "Yesterday this time we were all smiles, we had a great beat on the coast. But even though our dream weather turned into a nightmare, there's no quit on this boat, so we'll see.''

    The leading yachts were looking to finish the race late Sunday, well outside the race record of 1 day, 18 hours, 23 minutes, 12 seconds that Wild Oats XI set in 2012.

    Ragamuffin, another super maxi and skippered by 87-year-old Syd Fischer, was in third place, followed by another American entry, super maxi Rio 100.

    Perpetual Loyal was earlier sitting in fourth place before being forced to retire due to a damaged hull - the first of the five super maxis in the race to retire and one of eight yachts to pull out following a rough first night at sea.

    Perpetual Loyal skipper Anthony Bell decided to withdraw early on Saturday after the boat started taking on water while off Eden on the New South Wales state south coast.

    The boat, which includes professional surfer Sally Fitzgibbons, former world champion boxer Danny Green and Olympic sailor Tom Slingsby among its crew, returned to its home club at Sydney's Rose Bay.

    "We're not exactly sure how it happened," Slingsby said. "We were coming off some big waves but we also could have hit something during the night when we were falling off these waves."

    Brindabella, the 1997 champion, also retired from the original 117-yacht fleet with rudder problems.

    SOURCE: Associated Press


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