Near collision marks start of 73rd Sydney to Hobart race

SYDNEY (AP) A near collision between two of the race favorites marked a dramatic start to the 73rd edition of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race on Tuesday.

Supermaxis LDV Comanche and Wild Oats XI nearly collided after a tack from the eight-time line honors winner Wild Oats X1 15 minutes into the race start brought it within just a few meters of LDV Comanche, which raised a protest flag.

Wild Oats had the option of taking a 720 degree penalty turn if it believed it was responsible for an infraction, but continued to race. The supermaxi, skippered by Mark Richards, could receive a time penalty after the race finishes if race officials find it had done something wrong.

After nearly five hours of racing, LDV Comanche, with America’s Cup Oracle USA Team skipper Jimmy Spithill on board, held a lead of almost three nautical miles from Wild Oats XI, with Black Jack another two-and-a-half astern. Infotrack was close by in fourth with American entry Wizard currently fifth.

Earlier, in an easterly breeze of around eight knots, Black Jack led LDV Comanche by one second around the first turning mark and was first out of the Sydney Heads.

Wild Oats XI turned in third, a minute behind the first two, with Wild Oats X fourth ahead of InfoTrack.

The 630-nautical mile race from Sydney Harbour will see 102 yachts, including 27 international entries, make their way down the New South Wales state south coast and across often treacherous Bass Strait on their way to the island state of Tasmania.

The fleet will be pushed along by favorable 15 to 25 knot north-to-north easterlies into Wednesday, putting the race record of 1 day, 13 hours, 31 minutes and 20 seconds set last year by InfoTrack (racing as Perpetual Loyal) at risk.

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