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Slow start for Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet

Black Jack took full advantage of the light, easterly conditions on Sydney Harbour for the Rolex Sydney Hobart start to lead her contemporaries out of the Heads.

Black Jack timed her start perfectly, at full speed, when she crossed the 2017 Rolex Sydney Hobart line fourth from the pin in complete command, and eventually rounded the first mark well ahead of Comanche, and the gap continued to widen as the two tacked towards the sea mark.

Behind them, Mark Richards was hauling Wild Oats XI back from an abysmal start.

With a minute to go he had found himself boxed in, and the Oatley family’s boat looked downright slow when she did eventually cross the line below and astern of her little sister Wild Oats X.

It took the hundred footer five minutes to finally get past her 66ft stablemate, with a lethargic InfoTrack trailing them both – her preferred heavy breeze completely absent.

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At the sea mark Black Jack rolled out her big Code Zero and hugged the coast as she barrelled south through a wall of spectator craft.

Eventually Wild Oats XI reached the mark in second place, but as her crew set their big head sail Richards opted to head further out to sea.

Third came LDV Comanche, which almost came to a halt as her giant genoa filled with water like a balloon, the crew struggling to haul the dead weight of the sail back on board.

At her stern was a small red protest flag, confirmed by Cooney in a call around 4pm - DV Comanche has lodged a formal protest against Wild Oats XI after the two yachts almost collided soon after the start.

They must file a protest within six hours of arriving in Hobart, and an international jury will meet after the race to hear the case.

Next to the mark were Wild Oats X and InfoTrack, with Beau Geste trailing them further north and to seaward of the rhumbline.

As the super maxis accelerated south the smaller boats spread out between Sydney Heads, battling their way through the washing machine created by spectator boats trying to keep up with the favourites.

Some will hug the rhumbline, others are already searching for a current further out to ride to Green Point.

At 08:53 UTC Wednesday, LDV Comanche leads on the water with 15 miles to go, from Wild Oats XI and Black Jack, with Infotrack fourth and Beau Geste fifth.

Placed 29th is the TP52 Wot Eva, chartered by the UK-based race charter business Performance Yacht Racing, headed by Andy Middleton.

Skippered by Christian Reynolds this time, the crew consists of keen paying amateurs with a varied mix of ability from around the world.

PSP Logistics is the leading Clipper Race yacht in 40th place.

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