Yachting: Bumper field for Australia's most famous race

Yachting: Bumper field for Australia's most famous race

 SYDNEY - Some 119 yachts have entered this year's Sydney to Hobart race down the east coast of Australia, the first time since 2004 that the field has topped 100, officials said Monday.

The size of the field for the 628 nautical mile course means there will be three start lines for the 70th edition of the nation's most famous sailing contest, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) said.

"It's such a high standard and represents a good cross section of yachts from all over Australia as well as 10 international entries," CYCA Commodore John Cameron said.

The last time entrants topped 100 was in 2004 - when only 59 of the 116 boats which set sail on December 26 made it across the finish line after the fleet was hit by gale force winds and rough seas.

This year's field is set to include five supermaxis and 10 international entries with yachts from New Zealand, the Cayman Islands, Britain, Poland, Germany and the United States.

Among those entered is race record holder Wild Oats XI which won line honours last year after completing the gruelling course in two days, six hours, seven minutes and 27 seconds.

Its close rival and fellow supermaxi Perpetual Loyal is also registered, as is Syd Fischer's new Ragamuffin 100 which will see Fischer, 87, take part in his 46th Sydney to Hobart race.

The fleet will include boats old and new, with the 50-foot Victoire which won handicap honours this year up alongside vessels such as the 1932 Maluka of Kermandie, which is just nine metres long.

American entrant Comanche, a new 100-foot supermaxi built in Maine, has been designed to break speed records but is yet to be tested in the endurance contest after only a few weeks in the water.

The classic race departs Sydney Harbour on Boxing Day and the yachts can face treacherous weather as they sail down the coast, across the notorious Bass Strait and towards the island state of Tasmania.

In 1998 five yachts sunk and six people died when the race was hit by wild weather.

The final fleet for this year's race will be announced on November 25.

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