Sailing-Wild Oats XI, Investec Loyal neck-and-neck in Sydney-Hobart

Australian supermaxis Wild
Oats XI and Investec Loyal are locked in a tactical battle and
exchanging the lead in the 67th Sydney to Hobart on Wednesday,
as fickle, light winds turn the final 100 nautical miles of the
race into a nail-biting finish.

Wild Oats XI had led since the start of the 680 nautical
mile race on Monday, but light winds on Tuesday saw Investec
Loyal sail further out to sea and pick of a stronger breeze and
overtake Wild Oats XI.

But by Wednesday morning Wild Oats XI had regained the lead
by one nautical mile.

The two boats are expected to reach the finish line on
Hobart’s Derwent River later on Wednesday, where the winds will
be even more fickle and the tide a factor.

“We’ve got a yacht race on our hands out here,” Wild Oats XI
spokesman said from onboard the five-time line honours winner
and race record holder. “We are high-speed running — more wind
shifts ahead.”

Another Australian supermaxi, Lahana, is more than 60
nautical miles back in third.

“There are patches of no air (wind)…they’re moving all
over the place,” said race spokesman Jim Gale.

“It will be a day to test the mental toughness and stamina
of the (lead) yachts’ tacticians and navigators and the
precision of the crews as they try to wring every fraction of a
knot out of their boats in these light airs,” he said.

Twelve boats have retired from the race due to gear failure
or crew injury, with the bulk of the fleet only now just
starting to cross the notorious Bass Strait between the
Australian mainland and Tasmania.

Stronger winds in Bass Strait mean many of the smaller
yachts are making good time across the strait.

But the light winds off Tasmania mean the race record — one
day, 18 hours and 40 minutes — remains intact.

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