The 2016 Rolex Sydney to Hobart fleet is sailing south in record speed

‘Beau Geste’ heads out to sea during the 2016 Sydney To Hobart Yacht Race on December 26, 2016 in Sydney. Photo: Brendon Thorne/ Getty Images.

The 88-strong fleet in the 72nd Sydney to Hobart is on its way south after a 1pm start in Sydney.

Ocean racing legend Syd Fischer fired the starting gun in a 20 knot nor’easterly, conditions many are calling near-perfect and likely to make this year’s race the fastest ever.

Perpetual Loyal, Wild Oats, Scallywag, CQS and Beau Geste led the fleet through the Heads in a spectacular start.

No major incidents were reported.

Last year the starting boat started to sink and a number of yachts were damaged just minutes into the race following collisions.

But Wild Oats skipper Mark Richards was disappointed with his start, having to duck and weave through the line.

“Terrible start, terrible start,” he said from the yacht.

‘Perpetual Loyal’ heads out to sea during the 2016 Sydney To Hobart Yacht Race on December 26, 2016 in Sydney. Photo: Brendon Thorne/ Getty Images.

Despite that Wild Oats remains the favourite to win, rival skippers David Witt of Scallywag and Anthony Bell of Perpetual Loyal are confident they will make line honours.

Strengthening northerly winds before a southerly change moves through Bass Strait and up the coast tonight indicate the race time record could be slashed by hours.

The current records stands at one day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds, set by Wild Oats X1 in 2012.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun no matter what happens,” Richards said.

While it may be some of the smoothest racing conditions the race has seen in years, the yachts will have to a close and tactical race ahead of them.

‘Perpetual Loyal’ leads ‘Wild Oats XI’ and ‘Scallywag’ at the race start during the 2016 Sydney To Hobart Yacht Race on December 26, 2016 in Sydney. Photo: Brendon Thorne/ Getty Images.

“We’ll have to be a lot more tactical and bear more risk to use the better points of our boat,” super maxi Perpetual Loyal’s skipper Anthony Bell said.

“We’ll have to sail away from the fleet to find more power reaching that will give us better boat speed.”

Line honours and the overall winner may be decided in Storm Bay and on the Derwent.

Stay up to date with the race with any of the links here.

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