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Wild Oats X1 Leads Sydney-Hobart Race

The Australian Super-Maxi yacht Wild Oats X1 has the lead after the first day of the Sydney-Hobart race off the coast of Australia.

After leading the fleet out of the Sydney Harbor, Wild Oats and her skipper Mark Richards were ahead of the British entry City Index Leopard and the Australian yacht Skandia.

By late Wednesday, Wild Oats was more than 14 kilometers ahead of Skandia. City Index Leopard was in third place. The American yacht Rosebud was in fourth place, nearly 41 kilometers behind the leader.

Wild Oats holds the record for the 1,163 kilometer race down Australia's southeast coast - at one day, 18 hours, 40 minutes and 10 seconds. Last year the Australian maxi was not as fast because of poor winds, but still won (in two days, 8:52:22). Weather forecasters are not expecting a record time this year, with lighter winds forecast Thursday.

Wild Oats is trying to match the record of Morena, which won the race in 1946, 1947 and 1948.

Bad weather hit last year's race with eight sailors forced to abandon a sinking vessel and three others airlifted out of the race with injuries. In 1998, six sailors died and seven boats sunk when a violent storm hit the fleet in the Bass strait between mainland Australia and Tasmania.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.