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Dramatic rescue in Australia race

Vessels gather for the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race (26 December)
The Sydney to Hobart is one of the world's most demanding ocean races

The annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race has seen a dramatic first day after the entire crew of one vessel was rescued by fellow competitors as it sank.

Two nearby boats rescued the 14 crew of the Georgia after its rudder broke and the yacht started taking on water.

Deteriorating weather conditions are forecast as the 100-yacht fleet nears the end of the 628-nautical mile race.

This year's event will also mark 10 years since six sailors were killed as fierce storms battered the fleet.

It's hard to take, but the issue is that everyone is safe
Georgia's owner Graeme Ainley
Several boats sank and more than 50 competitors had to be plucked to safety by helicopter in 1998, in one of Australia's biggest peacetime rescue missions.

This weekend's race will culminate in a wreath-laying ceremony in the southern Australian city of Hobart, where the race winner is announced.

'Loud bang'

The New Zealand-built yacht, Georgia, issued a Mayday call about 2200 (1100GMT) on Friday after losing its rudder.

Yacht owner Graeme Ainley said there were no injuries to his crew, although it had been a sobering experience to watch their boat sink.

"It's hard to take, but the issue is that everyone is safe," he said.

"The bang was indicative of running into something and it was a pretty loud bang and so I guess it was something reasonably solid. It was after dark so we couldn't see it."

The Sydney to Hobart is one of the world's most demanding ocean races.

The fleet is travelling down Australia's south-east coast and across Bass Strait, an often treacherous stretch of water that separates the island state of Tasmania from the mainland.

The competition record stands at one day, 18 hours and 40 minutes but that is expected to come under pressure as the boats are being propelled by strong northerly winds.

The super maxi Wild Oats XI is the favourite to win this iconic event for the fourth year in a row, although it is locked in a tight race with the 2003 winner, Skandia.



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SEE ALSO
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