Start time, Comanche, Wild Oats XI , fleet

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The Queensland yacht Black Jack is the first yacht to head out into open waters after a thrilling five-way battle between the Sydney to Hobart supermaxis on the harbour.

It took the Mark Bradford-skippered Black Jack just over 13 minutes to race through Sydney Heads and into open water.

In a close tussle with her rivals, Black Jack lead the 85-strong fleet on its journey down the NSW Coast.

Behind Black Jack was InfoTrack, Wild Oats X1, Scallywagg, the 60-footer Winning Appliances and defending champion Comanche.

1pm update: BREEZE MAKING LIFE INTERESTING EARLY

Hundreds of thousands of spectators have crowded Sydney Harbour and its foreshore to watch one of the most stunning starts of a Sydney to Hobart yacht race with the supermaxi Wild Oats claiming boasting rights to the best getaway.

Crewed by some of the biggest names in ocean racing, the eight-time line honours winner left her four supermaxi rivals in her wake with a fleet start to the race.

Under powder blues skies and propelled by a moderate nor’easterly sea breeze stole the show in the opening stanza of the 628 nautical mile race to Hobart.

A fleet of 85 lined up on the harbour start lines with boats ranging from 30-foot to the five 100-foot supermaxis headlining the fleet in the 74th race south.

The multi-million dollar armada was in start contrast to the nine timber yachts which set sail back 1945 in the inaugural race.

A tricky race is forecast with the battle for overall honours expected to be a highlight.

The defending overall champion, Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban, also made an impressive start when the start canon fired at 1pm.

11am: IT’S GETTING CLOSE

As the 85 yachts in this year’s Sydney to Hobart fleet prepare to head out for the 1pm start a weather expert has rated this year’s edition as the most difficult race in 30 years.

Fast conditions have been forecast for the start but Bass Strait is looming as a major headache for every boat in the fleet thanks to erratic winds and unpredictable breeze.

“Tactically, strategically, in terms of weather, this is one of the most challenging races I have seen in 30 years in terms of difficulty,” leading sailing meteorologist Roger Badham says.

WHAT: 2018 Sydney to Hobart race

WHERE: starting from Sydney Harbour

WHEN: 1pm AEDT

The good news is it will be warm.

“T-shirt and shirts sailing across Bass Strait,” Badham says

A light to medium nor’easterly has been forecast for the start which will see the fleet work up the harbour before setting sail down the coast under spinnaker.

Wild Oats X1 skipper Mark Richards joked he was thinking of bringing a bean bag for the deck so he could enjoy the ride in comfort.

There have been some greeat reads in the lead-up to the big race. Reaquaint yourself with these.

Recalls the killer storm

The tragic story of the Winston Churchill

Liz Wardley remembers 1998 nightmare

Personal tragedy drives Scallywag skipper



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