Wild Oats XI extends lead in Sydney to Hobart

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HOBART, Australia (AP) — Defending champion Wild Oats XI extended its lead to 30 nautical miles over fellow super maxi Perpetual Loyal after the second night of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

In light winds, Wild Oats XI appeared to be on track for a record-equaling seventh line honors win in the race. The yacht had 200 nautical miles to sail early Saturday of the 628-nautical-mile trip to the capital of the island state of Tasmania.

Another super maxi, Ragamuffin 100, was dueling with Perpetual Loyal, just two nautical miles behind in third.

The winner was not expected to reach Hobart's Constitution Dock until late Saturday or early Sunday, nearly a day slower than Wild Oat XI's race record set last year of 1 day, 18 hours.

Race officials warned of dangerous conditions and strong winds late Saturday for the slower and smaller yachts still sailing across Bass Strait from the mainland. In 1998, six sailors died and five yachts sank in a storm that hit the fleet early in the race.

Loyal skipper Anthony Bell said his crew was hoping for stronger winds that would better suit his 100-foot yacht.

"We are sailing as well as we can in really light winds that don't suit our boat," he said. "We're looking hard for more wind."

Perpetual Loyal has among its crew London Olympics laser gold medalist Tom Slingsby, the Australian who was strategist on the winning Team Oracle USA boat at this year's America's Cup. Also on board is Jessica Watson, the Australian who four years ago became the youngest person to sail around the world solo and unassisted as a 16-year-old.

Wild Oats XI is owned by wine mogul Bob Oatley, who is heading the Australian challenge for the next America's Cup and is the Challenger of Record through his Hamilton Island Yacht Club.

There were 94 starters, including 22 from outside Australia, and three retirements so far.

The overseas contingent included 12 boats from the Clipper Round the World race, which for the first time included the Sydney to Hobart as the sixth race of its 16-race schedule.

The yacht Morna/Kurrewa IV won the Sydney to Hobart seven times, the first in 1946 and the final time in 1960.

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