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LOYAL likely to smash Sydney-Hobart record

AAP logoAAP 26/12/2016 Adrian Warren and Andrew Drummond

After two years of dashed hopes Perpetual LOYAL skipper Anthony Bell looks set to win the Sydney to Hobart and obliterate the race record.

Powering down Tasmania's east coast on Tuesday evening the supermaxi is on track to cross the finish line about 1am (AEDT) on Wednesday, carving more than six hours off the fastest time for the blue water classic, set in 2012 by Wild Oats XI.

For Bell, who won the race in 2011 with Investec LOYAL, a second victory would end two years of failure after he was forced to withdraw with rudder damage in 2015 and his campaign was ended a year earlier after hitting an object in the water.

Withstanding mechanical problems and damage, the speed of LOYAL's run into Hobart will depend on the influence of the city's changeable and often breathless Derwent River.

Satellite tracking shows the boat making a steady 16 knots as she closes on the southern capital.

And given the lead boat only needs to reach the finish line before 7.23am on Wednesday to beat the race record of one day ,18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds, the mark looks set to be smashed.

"The wind is forecast to stay into the river and I think it will actually carry forward and bring them home very early in the morning," Cruising Yacht Club of Australia commodore John Markos said of the lead pack.

"The Derwent usually shuts down but tonight it's forecast to be having a fair bit of breeze from the northeast."

Eight-time line honours winner Wild Oats XI was more than four hours ahead of her record when forced to withdraw on Tuesday morning with hydraulic problems impacting the ability to control the keel.

She is due to reach Eden on the NSW far south coast about 10pm (AEDT) where she will undergo works while the crew is bussed to Sydney.

While the exact repairs are yet to be determined, crew centred and stabilised the keel allowing Wild Oats XI to make nine knots into shore as race officials explained the intricacies of the fault.

"Approaching the northeast coast of Flinders Island in eastern Bass Strait, she suffered damage to the hydraulic ram that adjusts the angle of the canting, or swinging, keel beneath the hull," a spokesman said.

"The keel counteracts the weight of the wind on the sails, enabling the boat to remain more upright. It also reduces leeway, the distance the boats veers from its compass course."

Markos said he'd yet to speak to any connections of Wild Oats XI.

Needless to say they must be devastated after having to also withdraw early from the 2015 race with sail damage to crew failings.

"I'm deeply sorry for them - they've campaigned very well," he said.

"They've put an enormous amount of effort into the performance of the boat with the intention of taking this race.

In a year of such "perfect" conditions, the withdrawal is all the more bitter for determined skipper Mark Richards.

"I'm not aware of these sort of conditions ever in the history of the race, the way it's been set up," Markos said.

With about 100 nautical miles left to run, LOYAL maintains a lead of 14 miles over New Zealand Volvo 70 entry Giacomo, with Hong Kong supermaxi Scallywag, a further 14 miles behind.

Giacomo remains a strong contender for handicap honours in a process that could take days to decide as smaller boats track south.

From the starting pack of 88 there are 83 yachts still racing, following withdrawals due to damage.

With the exception of one boat still trying to make repairs at Eden, all competing yachts have made it at least as far as Bass Strait.

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