Wild Oats XI leads from start of Rolex Sydney Hobart race

The start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race did not disappoint yesterday (Boxing Day Australia) and in perfect gusty southerly 20-25 knot winds, under a sunny sky, the 76 yachts in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s annual race, popped kites and Code Zeros at the start, making for a spectacular sight.

Mark Richards and Wild Oats XI looked to be in no mood to be interrupted in her bid to claim a sixth line honours, blasting off the line and showing Syd Fischer's Ragamuffin Loyala clean pair of heels before popping out of the Heads comfortably in the lead.

At 17:30 AEDT Wild Oats XI was 8 nautical miles north east of Kiama travelling at 12 knots, with some 50 nm under her belt after 4.5 hours of sailing. Any thought of setting a new record seemed to be on hold as navigator Adrienne Cahalan called in to report the wind speed dropping as evening arrives.

2012 Rolex Sydney Hobart race leaves Sydney harbourClick image for a larger image

Ragamuffin Loyal lies within striking distance just astern. Lahana, Ichi Ban and Black Jack round out the top five on the water.

Conditions have been wet and hard on crews during these first few hours and the measure of performance differential between front-runners and back markers is clearly demonstrated by Charlie's Dream. Averaging just 3.4 knots, Peter Lewis and crew were parallel with Botany Bay having knocked a mere 13 nm off the 628nm course distance.

Ragamuffin Loyal - 2012 Rolex Sydney Hobart RaceClick image for a larger image

2012 Rolex Sydney Hobart - Leading 5 after 10 hours racing
1. Wild Oats XI, Robert Oatley NSW Racing, DTG 516.1
2. Ragamuffin Loyal, Syd Fischer NSW Racing, DTG 520.5
3. Lahana, Peter Millard & John Honan NSW Racing, DTG 527.1
4. Ichi Ban, Matt Allen NSW Racing, DTG 533.7
5. Black Jack, Peter Harburg QLD Racing, DTG 536.7