June 17, 2019

Comanche, Wild Oats XI in Sydney to Hobart duel

HOBART, Australia (AP) — Seven-time champion Wild Oats XI and American super maxi Comanche continued their Sydney to Hobart duel on Saturday, 24 hours into the annual ocean race to the island state of Tasmania.

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 early afternoon Saturday, Wild Oats opened up a three-nautical-mile lead over the American boat, with both yachts completing about 250 nautical miles of the 628-nautical-mile race.

Ragamuffin, another super maxi and skippered by 87-year-old Syd Fischer, was in a distant third place, about 40 nautical miles behind the leaders. Another American entry, super maxi Rio 100, was fourth.

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 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.

Wild Oats XI set the race record of 1 day, 18 hours, 23 minutes, 12 seconds in 2012, a mark that will likely stand this year.

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Comanche, Wild Oats XI in Sydney to Hobart duel

Bumper field for Australia's most famous yacht race

Sydney (AFP) – Some 119 yachts have entered this year’s Sydney to Hobart race down the east coast of Australia, the first time since 2004 that the field has topped 100, officials said Monday.

The size of the field for the 628 nautical mile course means there will be three start lines for the 70th edition of the nation’s most famous sailing contest, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) said.

“It’s such a high standard and represents a good cross section of yachts from all over Australia as well as 10 international entries,” CYCA Commodore John Cameron said.

The last time entrants topped 100 was in 2004 — when only 59 of the 116 boats which set sail on December 26 made it across the finish line after the fleet was hit by gale force winds and rough seas.

This year’s field is set to include five supermaxis and 10 international entries with yachts from New Zealand, the Cayman Islands, Britain, Poland, Germany and the United States.

Among those entered is race record holder Wild Oats XI which won line honours last year after completing the gruelling course in two days, six hours, seven minutes and 27 seconds.

Its close rival and fellow supermaxi Perpetual Loyal is also registered, as is Syd Fischer’s new Ragamuffin 100 which will see Fischer, 87, take part in his 46th Sydney to Hobart race.

The fleet will include boats old and new, with the 50-foot Victoire which won handicap honours this year up alongside vessels such as the 1932 Maluka of Kermandie, which is just nine metres long.

American entrant Comanche, a new 100-foot supermaxi built in Maine, has been designed to break speed records but is yet to be tested in the endurance contest after only a few weeks in the water.

The classic race departs Sydney Harbour on Boxing Day and the yachts can face treacherous weather as they sail down the coast, across the notorious Bass Strait and towards the island state of Tasmania.

In 1998 five yachts sunk and six people died when the race was hit by wild weather.

The final fleet for this year’s race will be announced on November 25.

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Bumper field for Australia's most famous yacht race