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Wild Oats XI, Perpetual Loyal in Hobart race duel

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December 27, 2013 05:22 AM EST | AP

HOBART, Australia (AP) — Defending champion Wild Oats XI took a 10 nautical-mile lead over fellow super maxi Perpetual Loyal into the second night of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race on Friday.

The yachts were at the halfway point of the 628-nautical-mile trip to the capital of the island state of Tasmania.

Another super maxi, Ragamuffin 100, was 20 nautical miles behind in third.

Based on weather forecasts of very light winds at the finish, the winner was not expected to reach Hobart until early Sunday, well off Wild Oat XI's race record set last year of 1 day, 18 hours.

Wild Oats XI is attempting to win the Sydney to Hobart for a record-equaling seventh time.

Race officials warned of dangerous conditions and strong winds late Saturday for the slower and smaller yachts still sailing across Bass Strait from the mainland.

In 1998, six sailors died and five yachts sank in a storm that hit the fleet early in the race.

Loyal skipper Anthony Bell said his crew was hoping for stronger winds that would better suit his 100-foot (30-meter) yacht.

"We are sailing as well as we can in really light winds that don't suit our boat," he said. "We're looking hard for more wind."

Perpetual Loyal has among its crew London Olympics laser gold medalist Tom Slingsby, the Australian who was strategist on the winning Team Oracle USA boat at this year's America's Cup. Also on board is Jessica Watson, the Australian who four years ago became the youngest person to sail around the world solo and unassisted as a 16-year-old.

Wild Oats XI is owned by wine mogul Bob Oatley, who is heading the Australian challenge for the next America's Cup and is the Challenger of Record through his Hamilton Island Yacht Club.

There were 94 starters, including 22 from outside Australia, and three retirements by late Friday.

The overseas contingent included 12 boats from the Clipper Round the World race, which for the first time included the Sydney to Hobart as the sixth race of its 16-race schedule.