Perpetual LOYAL leads Sydney to Hobart race on record pace

SYDNEY (AP) Supermaxi Perpetual LOYAL remained on course Tuesday to win the Sydney to Hobart yacht race in record time after inheriting the lead when race favorite Wild Oats XI withdrew due to a hydraulic failure.

Perpetual LOYAL took the lead when eight-time line honors winner Wild Oats quit the race early Tuesday and for the second year in a row with a failure which affected its moveable keel.

Wild Oats was well on the way to taking line honors and breaking its own 2012 race record of 1 day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds when it was forced to quit the race when already in Bass Strait, which separates Tasmania state from the Australian mainland. It had to turn back to the port of Eden in southern New South Wales.

Perpetual LOYAL was also on record pace. Optimistic forecasts have it finishing in Hobart at midnight, more than seven hours inside Wild Oats' record. It will more likely finish in the early hours of the morning, still up to four hours inside the line honors record.

Late Tuesday afternoon Perpetual LOYAL, skippered by Anthony Bell, held a 21 nautical mile lead over the 70-foot Giacomo which was surging along in winds of 24 knots. Four yachts had withdrawn from the 88-boat fleet.

In order to break the record the leading boat must cross the finish line before 7.23am local time Wednesday (2023 GMT Tuesday). Perpetual LOYAL was well on track to achieve that mark as it crossed Bass Strait.

The key to its record charge will be the wind conditions in the Derwent River, which yachts must negotiate in the final stretch to the finish. The wind is typically light in the Tasmanian river and many record attempts have faltered in sight of the finish of the 628 nautical mile race.

Commodore John Markos from race organizer the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia was confident the wind would support Perpetual's record bid.

''The wind is forecast to stay into the river and I think it will actually carry forward and bring them home very early in the morning,'' Markos said. ''The Derwent usually shuts down but tonight it's forecast to be having a fair bit of breeze from the northeast.''

Wild Oats was more than four hours inside her race record when forced to withdraw. The 100-foot yacht had an eventful race, botching the start and trailing Perpetual LOYAL out of Sydney Harbour before seizing the lead as the 88-boat fleet headed south.

Wild Oats was around five nautical miles ahead of Perpetual LOYAL when the decision was made to withdraw. She also quit last year's race, handing line honors to the supermaxi Comanche which has provided several crew members to Perpetual LOYAL this year.

Perpetual LOYAL is looking for a major change of fortune after being forced to withdraw from the race in each of the last two years, in 2015 with a rudder problem and in 2014 after striking a submerged object.

A spokesman for Wild Oats said her crew had been able to stabilize the keel and the yacht was making around nine knots towards the Australian coast.

''Approaching the northeast coast of Flinders Island in eastern Bass Strait she suffered damage to the hydraulic ram that adjusts the angle of the canting or swinging keel beneath the hull,'' the spokesman said. ''The keel counteracts the weight of the wind on the sails, enabling the boat to remain more upright. It also reduces leeway, the distance the boat veers from its compass course.''

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide — from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Grant Wahl, Andy Staples and more — delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.