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Perpetual Loyal wins Sydney to Hobart race in record time

Associated Press logo Associated Press 28/12/2016
In this photo provided by Rolex the Supermaxi Perpetual Loyal crosses the finish to take line honors in the Sydney Hobart yacht race in Hobart, Australia, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016. It crossed the finish line at around 2:30 a.m. local time on Wednesday to complete the 630-nautical-mile race in 1 day, 13 hours, 31 minutes, 20 seconds. (Kurt Arrigo/Rolex via AP) © The Associated Press In this photo provided by Rolex the Supermaxi Perpetual Loyal crosses the finish to take line honors in the Sydney Hobart yacht race in Hobart, Australia, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016. It crossed the finish line at around 2:30 a.m. local time on Wednesday to complete the 630-nautical-mile race in 1 day, 13 hours, 31 minutes, 20 seconds. (Kurt Arrigo/Rolex via AP)

HOBART, Australia — Supermaxi Perpetual Loyal has taken line honors in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race with its winning time nearly five hours faster than the previous record.

Skippered by Anthony Bell, Perpetual Loyal crossed the finish line at Constitution Dock in Hobart around 2:30 a.m. local time on Wednesday to complete the 630-nautical-mile race in 1 day, 13 hours, 31 minutes, 20 seconds.

That shattered the race record, set in 2012 by rival supermaxi Wild Oats XI, by 4 hours, 51 minutes, 52 seconds.

Wild Oats XI had been leading the race and was on target to take line honors for the ninth time when it suffered a hydraulic failure on Tuesday and was forced to withdraw.

Perpetual Loyal inherited a comfortable lead, making up for its misfortunes of the last two years when it had to quit the race. In 2015 it was forced out with rudder damage and, in 2014, it withdrew after striking a submerged object.

This year it was able to take full advantage of favorable wind conditions which propelled the 88-boat fleet at a record pace.

"We got a good set of weather conditions," Bell said. "Sometimes you just need a little bit of luck and we've certainly had our fair share of bad luck, so I was entitled to ask the forecasters for that."

Bell said he was immediately aware of the misfortune that struck Wild Oats XI and handed Perpetual Loyal the race lead. The failure of a hydraulic ram affected the movement of the yacht's keel and forced it to pull out of the race and head for the port of Eden.

"We saw the boat tilt right over, we saw them come to a sudden stop," Bell said. "Our first worry was that it might have lost a crew member overboard.

"We radioed them and said, 'Hey if you're in trouble we're prepared to stop the race and go over and help the guys' but the fortunate thing is no one got hurt."

Wild Oats arrived safely in Eden late Tuesday night.

Owner Sandy Oatley, who was not aboard, was shocked the yacht was forced out of the race for the second straight year.

"Last year we tore the mainsail and we've done a lot of preparation and training in that regard and the boys were very happy with that," Oatley said. "This hydraulic failure has come out of left field."

The 70-foot New Zealand yacht Giacomo, skippered by Jim Delegat and whose teenage sons Nikolas and James were among the 14-man crew, crossed the line two hours after Perpetual Loyal to take second place.

Giacomo completed the race in 1 day, 15 hours, 27 minutes, 5 seconds, just a few minutes ahead of the Hong Kong-based supermaxi Scallywag. All three top finishers were under the 2012 record.

"This type of yachting is a boyhood dream come true," Delegat said. "The key really is we picked a good plan, a good strategy."

Bell said following the race that he wouldn't defend his title next year, preferring to sell Perpetual Loyal and move on to other sailing challenges.

"We called last shots for the boat last year, we said 'this is going to be our last trip to Hobart' and we didn't make it to Hobart so we thought we should come back," Bell said. "This boat is a great boat and it needs the next owner, someone to pick it up and jump into it with passion and enthusiasm."

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