Yachting: Wild Oats XI consolidate Sydney to Hobart lead

Wild Oats XI overcame a rough night at sea to consolidate her lead at the front of the Sydney to Hobart fleet on Tuesday morning.

The fleet had to contend with ugly seas whipped up by southerlies of up to 30 knots and swell generated by ex-tropical cyclone Fina.

Despite the tough conditions, only one off the fleet of 88 starters retired on the first night.

The 46-foot based Sydney boat Celestial was heading back home after suffering a broken gooseneck, which holds the boom to the mast on the mainsail.

Wild Oats XI, bidding to win her sixth line honours title in seven years, was leading rival supermaxi Investec LOYAL by seven nautical miles at 7.30am AEDT on Tuesday.

Barring breakages, the race was living up to pre-start predictions of a two-boat battle for line honours, with third-placed Wild Thing the best part of 20 nautical miles off the lead.

The leading boats were close to entering Bass Strait, but were well short of race record pace because of the head wind.

"It was a really bumpy night, especially when we went offshore," Wild Oats XI co-navigator Ian Burns said.

Investec LOYAL skipper and owner Anthony Bell said conditions overnight were pretty heavy.

He said the winds faded earlier in the morning but were up again from about 6.30am AEDT and expected to provide southerly gusts of 26 to 30 knots for most of the day before lighter breezes arrived.

"Last night was a relatively difficult night, it was pretty uncomfortable up on deck," Bell told AAP.

He said the celebrities aboard his boat handled the conditions well.

"I think it was difficult for all sailors last night, surprisingly enough, the celebrities fared quite well," Bell said.

"(Paralympic wheelchair racer) Kurt Fearnley is in great shape, (NRL star) Anthony Minichiello and (television personality) Karl Stefanovic are in great shape and the two Wallaby boys (Phil Waugh and Phil Kearns) are working their backsides off."

"We expect it to be very tactical coming down the Tasman coast with lighter winds.

"The idea is to get through today and hold the boat together."

The bigger boats fell down the overall standings during the night.

Just after 8am AEDT the 43-foot Wild Rose, owned by race stalwart Roger Hickman, headed the IRC standings which determine the handicap winner.

She was ahead of two 45-foot vessels, Victoire and Balance.

Solo circumnavigator Jessica Watson's Ella Bache Another Challenge, with the youngest crew in race history, was running 56th overall out of the 87 boats still racing.


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