The annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race is currently underway and facing a number of challenges. Wild Oats XI is hoping for its 5th consecutive win of the race. In 2005, the vessel made a record breaking finish, covering the 1,163-kilometers race in just one day, 18 hours and 40 minutes, crossing the line at Constitution Dock in Hobart.
The first race was held in 1945. ICAP Leopard, a British Yacht, took the lead by just a hair on Saturday, with defending champion Wild Oats XI in a close second pushing tightly against Alfa Romeo.
Early on in the race, a duel occurred between Alfa Romeo and Leopard, the two-time winner of the Fastnet ocean races. Alfa Romeo and Leopard led the first four hours of the race out of Sydney Harbour; Wild Oats trailed just behind the two all along the southern coast of New South Wales state.
The local weather forecast called for winds, so neither leading yacht was thought to break any race records. The two yachts who were in the lead were estimated to cross the finish line in Hobart on Tasmania late Monday morning.
When Wild Oats faced an early issue with a spinnaker, Alfa Romeo took the lead out of Sydney. Leopard followed the leading two out from the harbor into open sea. After transporting and installing a replacement mast from England, Skandia’s new namesake Etihad Stadium had a late beginning to the race. The repairs cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and rigging issues in the mast caused the skipper to retire the boat before even having a chance to leave the harbor for the race.
Nobody was sure how the race would turn out, as winds were much lighter than expected. In previous years, the race had faced severe storms. Eleven years ago, six sailors died and seven vessels sank during a storm that crossed paths with the fleet on the first evening of the race in 1998. Two years ago, eight sailors abandoned their sinking yacht, and three faced critical injuries and had to be airlifted to a hospital.
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