Wild Oats led the 71 yachts remaining in the race into calmer conditions as it raced down the east coast of the island state of Tasmania on Tuesday, leaving behind southwesterly gales which pummeled the fleet and forced the retirement of 16 yachts.
With 88 miles to the finish, Wild Oats had a 26-mile lead over fellow maxi Investec Loyal with Lahana 67 miles away in third.
The yachts left Sydney Harbour on Sunday in the 723-mile race which is being held for the 66th time.
Wild Oats navigator Adrienne Cahalan said the crew of the 100-foot maxi were in good shape after a tough crossing of Bass Strait, which separates Tasmania from the Australian mainland.
"We are certainly glad to see this calmer weather, but it is bitterly cold out here this morning," she said. "The good news is that it's sunny, so we are all drying out after being so wet yesterday."
Overnight withdrawals included that of last year's overall winner, Two True, which suffered engine trouble.
"There was an explosion when the deck disintegrated," skipper Martin Power said. "I saw the mast go. That was quiet, but when the chainplates peeled the deck away, there was a tremendous noise."
Crewman Matthew Feore was below deck preparing to help reduce sail when the mast went and he saw the deck above him disappear.
"One moment Matthew's lying there preparing to come up to make the change, the next moment the roof opens up and he's looking at the sky and water coming in," Power said.
Bacardi was contesting its 27th Sydney to Hobart race and had never previously failed to finish.
Investec Loyal is partly crewed by Australian sports starts including former test cricketer Matthew Hayden, former Wallabies rugby players Phil Kearns and Phil Waugh, swimmer Geoff Huegill and seven-time world surfing champion Layne Beachley.
Hayden said the race had emphasized to him the value of teamwork.
"There's an enormous technical element to it that I don't understand but I've really enjoyed watching how they've crafted out strategy and tactics," he said.
"The challenging experience you'll never forget (is) what it takes for guys to have your back and for you to have other guys' backs as well."
Source: AP News