Favorite Wild Oats XI snatched back the lead from rival supermaxi Perpetual Loyal in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race yesterday, with the dueling 100-footers (30.5m) surging ahead of the fleet.
As they passed the halfway point of the 628 nautical mile (1,163km) course down eastern Australia, Wild Oats XI staged a stunning comeback to nose ahead after conceding a 10 nautical mile lead to Perpetual Loyal overnight.
By late afternoon, the two boats had broken away from most of the pack heading into the Bass Strait, which separates Australia from Tasmania, and Wild Oats XI was leading by 5 nautical miles.
Perpetual Loyal’s skipper Anthony Bell Bell said he was still aiming for victory, but was frustrated by the light conditions, saying that rougher weather would suit his heavier and wider vessel.
“We’ve just got to keep the boat going and stay in contact [with Wild Oats XI] for when some wind does come up,” he said.
Forecasts suggested there would be more light conditions yesterday and there is no expectation that the race record of 1 day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds — set last year by six-time line honors winner Wild Oats XI — will be broken.
The two supermaxis fronted a pulsating start to the challenging ocean classic south from Sydney harbor under blue skies on Thursday.
While they remain the frontrunners, they face competition from fellow 100-footers Ragamuffin 100 and Wild Thing, and Volvo 70s Giacomo and Black Jack.
The fleet remains at 92 vessels, with no further retirements after two pulled out shortly after Thursday’s start.