The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has taken a dramatic turn during tonight with the major super maxi contenders for line honours either retired or trying to effect repairs as they have confronted an extreme southerly change off the NSW south coast, along with others in the fleet.
Eight-times line honours winner Wild Oats XI is out with a torn mainsail and is returning to Sydney; the US frontrunner Comanche, which had been leading the race, suffered a broken rudder, initially retired but is now trying to effect repairs at sea and continue in the race; Anthony Bell’s Perpetual Loyal, with former Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke aboard, has retired, also with a broken rudder and is returning to Sydney.
The other US entry, George David’s 88 foot Rambler now leads the race, ahead of Comanche and Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin 100.
A dark horse in the race is Maserati, Giovanni Soldini’s V70 that is well out to sea and clearly gambling on skirting the treacherous southerly that is taking this toll on the fleet.
The retirements so far are:
Ark323 (deck damage)
Lupa of London (bow damage)
Cougar II (hull damage)
M3 (broken forestay)
Dare Devil (broken rudder)
Wild Oats XI (torn mainsail)
Cex Dolce (broken mast)
Perpetual Loyal (broken rudder)
St Jude (broken rudder)
Koa (steering damage)
All retirees report crews are safe. All vessels are heading for Sydney, except CEX Dolce, which is heading to Jervis Bay.
The front that has devastated the top fancies for the race, run by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, arrived exactly as predicted several days before the start of the race. The strong north-easterly that saw Comanche leap to the lead at the sea mark, gave way to the southerly about 10 pm, a 180-degree wind shift whose ferocity Wild Oats XI was the first to feel, gusts of more than 40 knots.
The 10 retirements leave 98 yachts at sea.
Update: Comanche has rejoined the race and is once again headed south just 5 miles from the leader, Rambler 88.