Australian maxis Skandia and Wild Oats XI were engaged in a tight duel off the east coast of Tasmania yesterday as both looked likely to finish under the race record in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. The 1,163km blue water classic had a dramatic first day with one yacht’s entire crew rescued by fellow competitors as their boat sank.
At 6pm yesterday, the 2003 winner Skandia held a narrow 8.15km lead over Wild Oats XI, which is seeking an unprecedented fourth successive line honors victory. Both yachts, which are in sight of each other, are predicted to finish at around 4:30am today.
The line honors winner must finish before 7:40am to break the race record set in 2005 by Wild Oats XI of one day, 18 hours, 40 minutes and 10 seconds.
The 16m yacht Georgia issued a mayday call at around 10pm on Friday after losing its rudder and taking on water, putting the vessel on the verge of sinking.
Two other yachts in the race, Telcoinabox Merit and Ragtime, diverted from their course to come to their aid.
All of the crew were transferred using a life raft to Telcoinabox Merit and then to a police vessel. They arrived back in Batemans Bay on the New South Wales coast early yesterday.
“Merit did a great job,” Georgia’s chief strategist Matt Hanaford told reporters. “There was also another boat that came along ... they arrived after Merit. We weren’t being picky. We took the first one there.”
Owner Graeme Ainley said the yacht had been cruising along nicely when the incident happened.
“It all happened pretty quickly out there,” Ainley told the official race Web site.
“We were running under spinnaker at about 15 knots, and ... we heard a loud bang, followed by a second bang.”
“I guess we must have hit something reasonably solid, but we couldn’t see it,” he said. “The rudder stop had pulled out and water came through the back of the boat. We then had no steering and had to get the spinnaker down quickly. We then tried to stop the influx of water, but it was getting worse so we made the decision to abandon the vessel.”
The yacht has since sunk.
A second yacht, Sanyo Maris, had also retired after suffering damage to a fitting on its mast and was heading back to Sydney.