Wild Thing XI is going for a sixth line honours win. Picture: Ian Mainsbridge/news.com.au
78 yachts will face the starter in the 68th Sydney to Hobart yacht race, which begins at lunchtime on Boxing Day in Sydney Harbour. The four 100 foot Maxi yachts in the field are set to fight it out for line honours, although Wild Oats XI heads in to the event as the firm favourite having been the first to Constitution Dock on five previous occasions. The Mark Richards skippered boat is also the race record holder, having set the standard of one day, 18 hours, 40 minutes and 10 seconds in 2005. After finishing second in 2011, Wild Oats XI has undergone modifications to increase her speed in light winds, something that was a weakness last year.
Last year’s winner Ragamuffin Loyal – which finished just over three minutes ahead of the five time winner twelve months ago, is again expected to pose the biggest threat Bob Oatley’s boat. Her preparations have been interrupted by damage to its mast and rigging however, which required repair work that forced the crew to miss the Big Boat Challenge. Loyal will be skippered by 85 year-old Syd Fischer, who is competing in his 44th Sydney to Hobart and was a line honours winner with Ragamuffin in 1988 and 1990. Retired Australian swimmer Geoff Huegill is another that will be aboard the defending champion.
Lahana was third across the line in 2010 and 2011, while Grant Wharington’s Wild Thing – who won the race as Skandia in 2003 is considered the only other genuine line honours contender. Brindabella was first to the Tasmanian capital in 1997 and is the other previous line honours winner in the field.
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