SYDNEY // Three yachts competing in this year's Sydney to Hobart yacht race have been involved in a rescue after one began to sink. The 14-strong crew of the 16-metre yacht Georgia issued a mayday call around 10pm local time on Friday night (3pm AST) after losing its rudder, organisers said in a statement. At the time the boat was taking on water and was on the verge of sinking. While police and Australia's search and rescue service were alerted, two other yachts in the race, Telcoinabox Merit and Ragtime, diverted from their course to come to the aid of the stricken vessel.
All of the crew were transferred using a life raft to Telcoinabox Merit and after being transferred to a police vessel overnight safely arrived on land. Race organisers said they expected the yacht had sunk. The defending champion Wild Oats XI and fellow maxi Skandia sailed toward a tight finish in the race to Hobart. Wild Oats XI, trying to win Sydney-Hobart line honours for the fourth straight year, led the 100-yacht fleet out of Sydney Harbour on Friday. It exchanged the lead with Skandia several times and on Saturday the two yachts were more than 50 nautical miles ahead of the rest of the fleet in Bass Strait. Skandia, the 2003 winner skippered by Grant Wharington, held less than a one-nautical-mile lead over Wild Oats with about 135 nautical miles remaining. *Reuters