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Sydney to Hobart: Comanche takes lead after weather culls fleet

ABC News ABC News 27/12/2015

Kristy Hinze-Clark rides the rail onboard Super-maxi Comanche during the 2015 Sydney to Hobart on December 26. © Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Kristy Hinze-Clark rides the rail onboard Super-maxi Comanche during the 2015 Sydney to Hobart on December 26. Weather-damaged Comanche has overtaken fellow US entrant Rambler 88 in the 71st Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

The race is turning into a Bass Strait battle with the two American yachts leading the field.

Comanche is travelling faster, and overtook Rambler about 12:50am (AEDT).

If either take line honours it will be the first international win since Swedish yacht Assa Abloy in 2001.

Comanche almost withdrew overnight, the US super-maxi turning to head back to Sydney after damaging its rudder.

The crew changed their mind and decided to remain in the race and try to repair the damage at sea.

Comanche was just one of the many boats battered and bruised after 40-plus knot winds smacked the fleet off the NSW coast.

The biggest retirement is eight-time line honours champion Wild Oats XI which is now docked back in Sydney.

Skipper Mark Richards said the withdrawal was due to a combination of mistakes and bad weather and had nothing to do with this year's radical $2 million makeover.

"It was actually weather and crew work, to be honest with you," Richards said.

"We made a few mistakes, it's as simple as that."

Sandy Oatley, the son of owner Bob Oatley, said the super maxi would be back next year.

Syd Fischer's Ragamuffin 100 and Italian Maserati are in pursuit of the leaders, with a large group of yachts still off the coast of New South Wales.

Queensland yacht Black Jack was sitting fifth before retiring late on Sunday morning.

Another to pull out was German entry Haspa Hamburg.

They join a growing list of casualties that have either withdrawn because of damage or have turned around.

The number of retirements has now exceeded last year's full race total of 14.

The Bureau of Meteorology is expecting the fleet to face 15-20 knot South/South Westerly winds through the day today, falling away to 10-15 knots later tonight.

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