Updated: 12/27/2013 08:19 | By Agence France-Presse

Perpetual Loyal seizes Sydney-Hobart lead

Supermaxi Perpetual Loyal surged into the lead of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race Friday despite a night of light wind, organisers said.

Perpetual Loyal seizes Sydney-Hobart lead

Perpetual Loyal (R) sails out of the Heads at the start of an annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race on December 26, 2013

Favourite Wild Oats XI was trailing 10 nautical miles behind Anthony Bell's 100-footer after the first night at sea.

"Last night we were further out to sea and that paid off," said Perpetual Loyal navigator Stan Honey.

"We are pleased to be in the hunt, because light air is not our strong point and its been light all night," Honey added.

Tom Addis, his counterpart aboard Wild Oats XI, admitted the six-time line honours winner had a lot of work to do.

"It was a messy night, pretty benign, (with) 15 knots (wind) as the maximum," Addis said.

"There were a lot of storms off the coast and we got tangled in the tail end of the storms.

"Today will be another tough day... Bass Strait will be a landmine.

"We've got a lot of catching up to do," Addis said

The two rival supermaxi fronted a pulsating start to the the challenging 628 nautical mile race south from Sydney harbour under blue skies on Thursday.

Wild Oats XI made it through Sydney Heads first as television footage showed the boats had come very close together.

Perpetual Loyal flew a protest flag after leaving the harbour, but skipper Bell later decided after a team meeting not to proceed with the protest.

Behind the two supermaxis on Friday morning were the two Volvo 70s, with New Zealand's Giacomo running third, 14 miles off the lead, and Black Jack another six miles back.

They were followed by supermaxis, Ragamuffin 100, which finished second in line honours behind Wild Oats last year, and Wild Thing and then new 80-foot boat Beau Geste.

Giacomo was leading the race on handicap from Perpetual Loyal and British Clipper 68 CV10 which has aboard Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the fist man to sail non-stop and single-handed around the world.

The fleet remained at 92 vessels, with no further retirements overnight.

Rough weather was predicted to hit the legendary race, with early bumpy conditions dampening hopes of breaking the course record of one day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds.

Crews have been warned they face gale-force winds and waves of up to 12 metres when a cold front hits the fleet late Saturday -- with the smaller and slower boats likely to experience the worst of the weather.

The Sydney to Hobart -- which sees boats track down the east coast of Australia from Sydney to the Tasmanian capital -- is a tactical race through challenging weather systems.

Wild storms saw six sailors perish in the 1998 edition, with five yachts sinking and 66 retiring from a fleet of 115.

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