Wild Oats XI retires from Sydney to Hobart race

SYDNEY (AP) Eight-time line honors winner Wild Oats XI has been forced to retire from the Sydney to Hobart yacht race for the second straight year after suffering damage to a hydraulic ram.

The 100-foot supermaxi was leading the race by around 8 nautical miles and was several hours inside its 2012 race record early Tuesday morning when skipper Mark Richards made the decision to retire. The fleet of 88 yachts which left Sydney on Monday has been reduced to 84 after the additional withdrawals of Freyja, Dare Devil and Patrice.

Supermaxi Perpetual LOYAL now leads the race by about 15 miles and is also inside the race record as the fleet sails down the east coast of Victoria.

Maserati is in third spot.

Wild Oats XI had recovered from a bad start to seize the race lead and to set a record-breaking pace as it sought to break its own race record of 1 day, 18 hours, 23 minutes, 12 seconds.

Perpetual LOYAL had the best start of the supermaxis and was the first yacht through Sydney Heads but yielded the lead to Wild Oats XI as the fleet headed down the New South Wales coast.

While the Hong Kong-owned supermaxi Scallywag was shown in eighth place early Tuesday its position was deceiving. Skipper David Witt made the decision to go further offshore than most of the fleet which puts the boat in a strong tactical position. It is likely to have to gybe less often than its rivals as the fleet approaches Tasmania.

John Markos, commodore of race organizers the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia was confident the race record would fall as the fleet encountered perfect sailing conditions. The leading boat must reach the finish line before 7.23am local time Wednesday (2023 GMT Tuesday) to beat Wild Oats' record.

''We're very confident the race record is going to get broken,'' Markos said. ''This is the first time I've been confident in the last 10 years.

''The reality is you've got boats moving at a very high speed. They are picking up pace now that the sun has come up.

''The modeling suggests they are going to finish at 3am, (more than) four hours ahead of the race record. I'm not quite believing that, it just sounds too incredible, but I predict about five in the morning.''

Markos said around six or seven yachts were in contention for line honors.

The key to the record falling is likely to be whether there is favorable wind in Tasmania's Derwent River on the final stretch to the finish line at Hobart. Yachts often encounter very light winds in the Derwent, delaying their finish, but Markos said projections were for wind conditions which would allow the leaders to maintain a record pace.

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