The Australian supermaxi yacht Wild Oats XI has maintained its lead and is on course to win a third straight title in the Sydney to Hobart race off the coast of Australia.

Early Thursday (0600 UTC) Wild Oats was about 405 kilometers from the finish and 35 kilometers ahead of British challenger City Index Leopard, with the fleet's third supermaxi Skandia in third place. The Australian yacht Ichi Ban is in fourth with the U.S. boat Rosebud in fifth place.

Calmer winds in the normally turbulent Bass Strait between Australia and Tasmania meant the fleet did not travel as far or as fast as the sailors had hoped. Race organizers said only three yachts out of 82 have retired from the 1,163-kilometer race.

If the standings remain unchanged Wild Oats will become the first yacht since 1948 to win three consecutive Sydney-Hobart races. Morena won the race in 1946, 1947 and 1948. Skipper Mark Richards and his crew are not expected to break their own record for the race, one day, 18 hours, 40 minutes, 10 seconds, set two years ago.

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