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Sailing-Wild Oats XI seals seventh Sydney-Hobart victory

The field of yachts led by Wild Oats XI (2nd R) and Perpetual Loyal (L) sail out of Sydney Harbour at the start of the annual Sydney to Hoba
The field of yachts led by Wild Oats XI (2nd R) and Perpetual Loyal (L) sail out of Sydney Harbour at the start of the annual Sydney to Hoba

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Wild Oats XI secured a record-equaling seventh victory in the Sydney to Hobart ocean classic when it sailed down the Derwent River well clear of its nearest rival on Saturday evening.

The 100-foot supermaxi overhauled Perpetual Loyal early on Friday afternoon after losing the lead in stormy weather late in the night on the opening day of the race before romping to the Tasmanian capital on favorable northeasterly winds.

Having claimed line honors in all but two of its nine attempts to win the 628 nautical-mile (1,163km) race, Wild Oats equals the record of Morna, later renamed Kurrewa IV, which won seven times between 1946 and 1960.

Light winds for much of the race meant Wild Oats was not able to come close to beating the race record of one day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds, which it set in winning last year.

The supermaxi crossed the line a shade over 54 hours after the race's traditional start in Sydney harbor on Boxing Day with second-placed Perpetual Loyal still some two hours away from Hobart.

The smaller boats in the remainder of the fleet are forecast to face winds of 40-60 knots and waves of up to 12 meters overnight in the volatile Bass Strait.

A repeat of the major storm that sank five yachts and killed six sailors in 1998 is unlikely, however.

(Writing by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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