Wild Oats XI leads Sydney to Hobart race

Updated: December 26, 2012, 5:30 PM ET
Associated Press

SYDNEY -- Favorite Wild Oats XI opened up a lead of 15 nautical miles over fellow super maxi and defending champion Ragamuffin Loyal on Thursday morning in the annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

After 19 hours of racing, Wild Oats XI, a five-time line honors winner and race record holder, had nearly 400 nautical miles to go in the 628-nautical-mile (723-mile) race.

Projections showed a Friday morning finish at Constitution Dock in Hobart on the island state of Tasmania.

The top five boats for line honors were Wild Oats XI, Ragamuffin Loyal, Lahana, Black Jack and last year's overall handicap winner Loki.

The leaders were well off the 2005 race record pace of Wild Oats XI (1 day, 18 hours, 40 minutes, 10 seconds).

Cruising Yacht Club of Australia commodore Howard Piggott said there had been mild conditions overnight, but that winds were strengthening as predicted.

"The boats are running under spinnaker ... they are starting to accelerate," he said Thursday.

On Wednesday, the 76-yacht fleet weaved its way around thousands of spectator crafts in Sydney Harbour for the start of the race. Ragamuffin Loyal was being skippered by 85-year-old Syd Fischer, who is taking part in his 44th Sydney to Hobart race.

Two hours before the start of the race, officials said super maxi Wild Thing, the 2003 line honors winner, would not be allowed to compete because it had not provided necessary documentation following hull modifications.

Piggott said the boat's owner had failed to provide paperwork after the length of the yacht's hull was extended from 98 feet to 100.

"The race committee has worked with the owner of the boat to allow him up to three hours prior to the start of race to provide the documentation required," Piggott said. "However, this has not been forthcoming. The race committee has no option but to not accept the entry of Wild Thing."

Wild Thing had not raced since being modified.

"We are absolutely devastated to be told at the 11th hour that we are unable to race to Hobart," Wild Thing skipper Grant Wharington said. "We're a bit stuck for words as to why it happened."

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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