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Wild Oats XI takes over Sydney-Hobart top spot at midway point of race

SYDNEY -- Favorite Wild Oats XI snatched back the lead from rival supermaxi Perpetual Loyal in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race Friday, with the dueling 100-footers surging ahead of the fleet.

As they passed the halfway point of the 628 nautical mile course down eastern Australia, Wild Oats XI staged a stunning comeback to nose ahead after conceding a 10 nautical mile lead to Perpetual Loyal overnight.

By late afternoon, the two boats had broken away from most of the pack heading into the Bass Strait, which separates the mainland from Tasmania, and Wild Oats XI was leading by five nautical miles.

“This race is so unbelievable,” said Perpetual Loyal's skipper Anthony Bell.

“Who would have thought that we were winning this morning when we woke up ... and how quickly the lead changed when the wind just stopped.”

Bell said he was still aiming for victory, but was frustrated by the light conditions, saying that rougher weather would suit his heavier and wider vessel.

“We've just got to keep the boat going and stay in contact (with Wild Oats XI) for when some wind does come up,” he said.

“The only difficulty is that it seems like there is no wind anywhere.”

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 Withdrawals leave Hopman Cup field open 
Wild Oats XI, left, and Perpetual Loyal, right, sail out of Sydney Harbour at the start of an annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race on Thursday, Dec. 26. (AFP)

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