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Race leader Shockwave retired in the face of gale-force winds and 1997 winner Brindabella withdrew from the Sydney to Hobart yacht race with a damaged hull. Shockwave led the 82-yacht fleet out of Sydney Harbor at Tuesday’s start and for the first third of the 630 nautical mile race before skipper Neville Crichton elected to withdraw as it approached the south eastern tip of the Australian mainland. The New Zealand skipper said he was “apprehensive about the forecast and how they might fare,” with 40-50 knot winds predicted to hit the fleet in the Bass Strait, which is between the mainland and the island state of Tasmania. The carbon-fiber maxi was untested in rough seas and Crichton said the ultra-light hull was not suited to the conditions. Race organizers have imposed strict safety requirements on all racing yachts in accordance with recommendations stemming from an inquiry into the deaths of six sailors in the 1998 Sydney to Hobart.
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