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Wild Thing survives brush with media boat in Sydney-Hobart start

Wild Thing bears down on the spectator boats in a fast start to the Sydney-Hobart yacht race.
Wild Thing bears down on the spectator boats in a fast start to the Sydney-Hobart yacht race.
  • Eighty-seven-strong fleet contest annual Rolex Sydney-Hobart yachting classic
  • Wild Oats XI early leader in 628-nautical mile race to Tasmania capital
  • Line honors rival Wild Thing collides with spectator boat just after start in Sydney Harbor
  • The 1998 race saw sixth deaths in brutal conditions in Bass Strait

(CNN) -- Australian maxi Wild Thing survived a collision with a spectator boat as the Rolex Sydney-Hobart yacht race got off to a spectacular start on Boxing Day.

Wild Thing, skippered by 2003 line honors winner Grant Wharington, was keen to lead the annual classic leaving Sydney Harbor on Sunday.

But a coming together with a small craft, which contained media representatives, put paid to that hope.

Official race website

Wild Thing was forced out early last year through mast problems, but fortunately there was no repeat, as Wharington reported only light damage.

"Luckily we didn't hook in, we just wiped the BBQ off the back corner of their boat," he told the official race website.

As the 628-nautical mile test entered its first night, four-time line honors winner Wild Oats XI was in the race lead, followed by Wild Thing and super-maxi Investec Loyal.

Wild Oats, the current record-holder, is expected to be first over the finish line late Tuesday local time, while Britain's Ran, owned by Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom, is among the favorites for victory on handicap.

Strong winds are forecast as the 87-strong fleet battles the Tasman Sea and the notorious Bass Strait.

The annual "Bluewater Classic" was first held in 1945 and has become one of the highlights of the yachting calendar.

But the changeable conditions can offer spell disaster and the 1998 edition saw five yachts sunk and six people died.