27 Dec 2016

Wild Oats in front

8:23 am on 27 December 2016

Supermaxi Wild Oats XI has slowly but surely lengthened its Sydney to Hobart lead and remains well ahead of the race record time set the same boat set in 2012.

Wild Oats XI' skippered by Mark Richards

Wild Oats XI' skippered by Mark Richards Photo: Photosport

Wild Oats XI stretched its lead to seven nautical miles overnight from Perpetual LOYAL which earlier led the race out of the Sydney Heads but as the fleet has made its way down the coast past the Victorian peninsula it's been Wild Oats, Queensland entry Black Jack and New Zealand yacht Giacomo who have gained speed.

Giacomo went into the darkness in sixth place and while many of the yachts skirted wide of the coastline, Giacomo made excellent speed sailing closest to land through the night hours to leap from sixth to fourth in the battle for line honours.

Giacomo passed fellow Kiwi entry Beau Gaste, Hong Kong boat Scallywag and the Mark Bradford skippered Black Jack, although as dawn breaks the latter has passed it to move into third in the Blue Water Classic.

Still, eight-times winner Wild Oats XI remains the boat to catch.

The supermaxi is seven nautical miles ahead of LOYAL with Black Jack closing quickly on her, with Giacomo just behind.

The starting fleet of 88 was reduced to 85 by early Monday evening.

The first two casualties were from Newcastle.

The 71-year-old Freyja, who was contesting her first Hobart, withdrew with a shredded headsail inside the first two hours.

There was frustration too for Dare Devil, who pulled out after being forced to retire with rudder damage for a second-straight year.

Also ruing a premature end to their race for a second straight year was the crew aboard Patrice, which pulled out with a broken rudder.

The current leader for handicap honours is Queensland yacht Bravo, skippered by 76-year-old Sydney to Hobart veteran Robert 'Robbo' Robertson.