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(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); Comanche sets the pace as Sydney to Hobart chaos claims early casualties - Algeria latest news

Perth-based `M3' has become the fourth boat to retire from this year's Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

American raider Comanche continues to set the pace in the annual Boxing Day dash, although compatriot Rambler 88 and defending line honours champion Wild Oats XI are right on her tail.

Ragamuffin 100 and Black Jack are also not far behind, although Comanche skipper Ken Read has kept his fingers crossed that the predicted southerly buster won't be as bad as first thought.

The quintet, who have almost whizzed past the Illawarra Coast, have opened a slender lead on the chasing field.

"And we still have a slight speed edge," Read said via satellite radio.

"What we don't want is for it to be so windy that it becomes a survival and we have to scale back and hold on.

While the supermaxis prepare to batten down the hatches for what is expected to be a horror night, three boats in two separate collisions have returned to Darling Point.

Tasmanian boat Cougar II returned inside an hour wearing the most damage, with an entire corner ripped off the stern after an incident with the bigger Lupa of London.

The British 78-footer also re-docked.

Chinese boat Ark323 came back with a crack in the deck after a prang with a rival yacht, while M3 officially pulled out after her forestay snapped off the top of the rig.

"We could borrow the forestay off Cougar, but just in the best interest with tonight's storm coming through, it's probably better to not go out and load it up straightaway," skipper Brent Fowler told AAP.

"We'll get all our spare rigging shipped over from WA and return the boat to WA."

The Hobart entrants weren't the only ones to crash out early, with start boat Aussie Legend forced into an emergency evacuation of its passengers at Taronga Zoo wharf when it began taking water.

Officials had to revert to using old-school horns and flags instead of the traditional firing of the cannon.

Comanche had earlier powered first into open waters with a blistering start, leaving Wild Oats XI and Perpetual Loyal eating dust at the sea mark.

Defending line honours winner Wild Oats XI had initially bolted out of the Sydney harbour but was overtaken by Perpetual Loyal out of the heads, before Comanche showed serious speed to pull

Tag(s) : #Asia-Pacific

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