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Favorite Wins Weather-Affected Sydney-to-Hobart Yacht Race

  • Phil Mercer

An Australian yacht has won the famous Sydney-to-Hobart bluewater classic. Wild Oats X1 crossed the finishing line in the Tasmanian state capital well ahead of its nearest rivals, as it did last year. Inclement weather caused chaos for other competitors in the annual sailing challenge. From Sydney, Phil Mercer reports.

Wild Oats X1 powered to the finishing line to become the first boat in 40 years to win the Sydney to Hobart yacht race two years in a row.

It completed the punishing journey in just under two-and-a-half days, well outside the race record it set last year.

Nine of the 78-strong fleet that set sail from Sydney harbor on Boxing Day were forced out of the event by wild weather and mechanical problems.

The Australian boat Koomooloo sunk and its crew was rescued by another competitor.

There was trouble for the Dutch entrant ABN Amro One. Its mast was torn down in rough conditions that saw the fleet battered by large waves and very strong winds.

Three sailors on board the New Zealand yacht Maximus had to be winched to safety by helicopter after their mast collapsed. Both vessels, which were among the event favorites, have limped back to port.

The captain and co-owner of Maximus Charles St. Clair-Brown describes the moment the mast came crashing down.

"Then there was just an almighty bang and I looked up and the entire mast, sails, everything was coming back into the cockpit," he said. "So I just screamed at the guys to duck, look out and the mast came down within a matter of seconds and then my immediate reaction was who has been hurt?"

These dramatic events have revived memories of the disastrous race in 1998 when six sailors were killed in huge seas. Survivors often refer to that time as "Hell on Highwater."

The Sydney-to-Hobart blue water classic is an iconic event on the international sailing calendar.

The 628 nautical mile journey takes competitors down Australia's east coast and then across the unpredictable Bass Strait. Calmer waters then lie ahead on the Derwent River before the crews finally reach Hobart.

Some of the smaller entrants could take several days to complete the journey. For them, simply making it to Tasmania in one piece will be an achievement.

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