Wild Oats XI off to rocky start in Sydney to Hobart race

Sun Dec 25, 2016 10:02pm EST
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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian super maxi Wild Oats XI was off to a rocky start in the 72nd Sydney to Hobart blue water classic on Monday, with the race favorite seeking a record ninth line honours victory.

Super maxi Perpetual Loyal led the way out of Sydney harbor towards the iconic Bondi Beach shortly after the starting cannon at 1pm local time (0200 GMT).

New Zealand yacht Beau Geste was just behind, with Wild Oats XI trailing after a slow start, but quickly making up time.

Hundreds of thousands of spectators had flocked to the shores of Sydney's harbor to watch the fleet of 88 yachts start out on the journey down Australia's east coast.

Covering approximately 630 nautical miles of the Tasman Sea and notoriously treacherous Bass Strait, the annual race is Australia's premier yachting event and among the world's most gruelling.

Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards was seeking redemption for his crew after high winds tore their mainsail and forced them to retire last year, along with almost a third of the entrants.

Wild Oats had won the three previous races, and a record eight overall. There is also added significance for Richards for the 2016 race, with long-time yacht owner Bob Oatley dying in January this year.

Near perfect weather conditions are predicted and yachtsmen have suggested the race record could be in danger of being broken.

Wild Oats XI took line honours in one day, 18 hours, 23 minutes, 12 seconds in the 2012 race.   Continued...

The yacht Wild Oats XI (R) leads Scallywag on its way to winning the Big Boat Challenge on Sydney Harbour December 13, 2016, before the annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht race to be held on December 26.    REUTERS/Jason Reed