SYDNEY • The favourite super maxis led the fleet out of Sydney Harbour heading for Hobart yesterday as a fine weather forecast brought a new record back into sight at the start of one of the toughest yacht races in the world.
Under a blazing azure sky, a fresh north-easterly sped the fastest yachts - all 100-footers - ahead of the 80-odd smaller vessels entered for Australia's bluewater classic.
Skipper Anthony Bell's Perpetual Loyal was the first into open ocean followed by Hong Kong-owned Scallywag, and local race favourite Wild Oats XI trailed by the untested CQS of Finn Ludde Ingvall, who took line honours in 2000 and 2004.
As they flew south down the coast under spinnaker touching 26 knots in freshening northerly winds, Wild Oats edged into an early lead, heading into a weak southerly change due to move through late on Boxing Day.
In the race for line honours, conditions favour the slim Wild Oats, which set the record of 1 day 18hr 23min 12sec for the gruelling 1,163km event in 2012.
Skipper Mark Richards said he is not thinking about records, but David Witt, at the helm of Hong Kong businessman Lee Seng Huang's entrant, Scallywag, certainly is.
"If I had to write a forecast for us, it would be this one," he said. "Light air just forward of the beam really suits us."
Witt said Scallywag could break Wild Oats' race record. "Our routing puts us at the Iron Pot (mouth of Tasmania's Derwent River) in 1 day 11 hours. That gives us 7 hours to do 14 miles and beat the record," he said.