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Leading Sydney to Hobart supermaxis close to record pace

Line honours favourite Andoo Comanche is the early leader in the Sydney to Hobart race.

Line honours favourite Andoo Comanche is the early leader in the Sydney to Hobart race. Photo: AAP

Andoo Comanche is giving her rivals a target to chase, with the leading supermaxis near record time after a fast start to the Sydney to Hobart.

Pushed along by northerly winds, the fleet made good progress after some early drama with Andoo Comanche and her old rival Hamilton Island Wild Oats each opting to do a penalty turn In the first 20 minutes.

Almost seven hours into the race, only two of the original fleet of 109 had retired.

The 40-foot two-handed boat Avalanche pulled out with a broken bowsprit within two hours of the start, her second retirement in three Hobart races.

A few hours later another Sydney based boat, Yeah Baby, was forced out with rudder damage,

Andoo Comanche was out in front, with not much distance separating her supermaxi rivals LawConnect, Hamilton Island Wild Oats and last year’s line honours winner, Black Jack.

There was a gap between the four supermaxis and the next group of boats, which included the 80-foot Stefan Racing, the Volvo 70 Willow, the 72-footer URM Group and the 66-foot Alive, the boat that won overall honours in 2018.

To break LDV Comanche’s 2017 race record of one day, nine hours 15 minutes 24 seconds, boats have to hit the finish line before 10.15pm on Tuesday (AEDT).

In the hours before the start, some skippers said a record was possible, but thought the current mark might just survive.

The big boats are likely to continue making good progress on Tuesday, with some fresh to strong north-easterly winds forecast.

The battle for overall honours will start in earnest once the first boat finishes.

After early morning fog over Sydney cleared, the race settled down after a frantic start in front of a large spectator fleet.

Inside the first few minutes some boats came perilously close to each other as they jockeyed for an advantage.

Andoo Comanche navigator Justin Shaffer said they took their penalty turn after another boat protested against them, but declined to identify which yacht it was.

He confirmed his boat was flying a protest flag but did not elaborate.

Nine-time line honours winner Wild Oats took its penalty turn several minutes later, following a debate between skipper Mark Richards and other senior crew members.

The reason for the turn was not immediately apparent.

It brought back memories of 2017 when Wild Oats opted not to take a penalty turn after an incident shortly after the start of that race.

She crossed the line first but dropped back to second after being slapped with a one-hour penalty by an international jury for a rule breach related to an incident with LDV Comanche in the harbour.

Despite the early drama on Monday, race organisers reported a clean start across all four lines of boats.

-AAP

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