A southerly has destroyed the biggest and best yachts in the Hobart race

Wild Oats. Photo: Brendon Thorne/ Getty.

Race favourite and eight-time Sydney to Hobart winner Wild Oats XI is out of the 2015 race after a southerly front with gusts of up to 40 knots hit the fleet last night.

The 100ft supermaxi was forced to retire last night at around 10pm, ending hopes of a record 9th line honours win.

Sydney accountant Anthony Bell’s celebrity-packed supermaxi Perpetual Loyal also pulled out with rudder damage, his second retirement in a row on the first night of racing in just three attempts.

The southerly came through just after dark with 25-30 knot winds and also left US supermaxi Comanche with daggerboard and rudder damage, and the boat announced its intention to retire, but so far Jim Clark’s flyer, which has his Australian model wife, Kristy Hinze-Clark, on board, is pressing on into Bass Strait in second place 6 nautical miles behind the smaller US 88 footer, Rambler, with veteran Australian sailor Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin 100 in third place.

The overnight winds caused a fair bit of damage to the fleet, with CEX Dolce dismasted and bound for Jervis Bay.

All up, 10 boats have withdrawn, including St Jude, Koa, Pazazz, Takani, and for the second year in a row, Brindabella, this time with mainsail damage.

After starting the 71st race with 108 yachts, just 98 remain in contention. No people have been injured.

While Rambler is further south than Wild Oats when it set the race record in 2012, the boats are well east of the rhumb line, the shortest distance between Sydney and Hobart, which the record holder sat on to set the benchmark time of 1 day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds.

Italian debutante Maserati, a Volvo 70, sits in fourth place, east of the rest of the fleet.