Wild Oats pulls out, Perpetual LOYAL takes the lead in the Sydney to Hobart

Peter Parker/AFP/Getty Images

Wild Oats XI has been forced out of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, giving up its lead to equipment failure.

The supermaxi reported a broken hydraulic ram, a key to moving the keel.

“We can confirm we have had to retired from the race; most importantly all crew on board are safe,” said a statement from Wild Oats XI.

The yacht is now headed for Eden on the NSW south coast and is expected to arrive early tomorrow. The keel, which is controlled by the hydraulic ram, has been centred and stabilised.

This puts Perpetual LOYAL in the lead of the 72nd Sydney to Hobart.

Race organisers say Perpetual LOYAL may finish hours inside the record early tomorrow morning in Hobart if she maintains speed in good easterly winds.

Perpetual LOYAL on track to break the record. Image: Supplied.

Eighteen nautical miles astern the New Zealand Giacomo is running second but also leading the race on corrected handicap time.

Wild Oats XI, an eight times line honours winner, set the current Sydney to Hobart record of 1 day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds in 2012, beating its own record set in 2005.

This is the second year in a row that skipper Mark Richards has had to make the call to retire from the race. In 2015 a damaged mainsail put them out of the running.

The fleet of 88 starters has been cut by four, including Freyja which pulled out with a shredded headsail.

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