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Bluewater race fleet battered by storm

What has been touted as one of the toughest Rolex Sydney Hobart Races in recent years saw the first finisher arrive, but more than a dozen boats were forced to retired from damage caused by a fierce storm.

The Australian regatta is the nation's most popular and the Boxing Day start is a national event.

This year's 66th edition was one of the physically most difficult with sustained periods of headwinds along the way and crushing gale-force conditions through the notorious Bass Strait.

A seasoned offshore sailor and co-navigator of the winning boat told of encountering 20-30 knot headwinds across the Bass Strait. As to how the boat managed, she said, "The boat held together really well ... it was a technically sound race for us." She continued, "To get there in one piece and in first place - it's one of the greatest victories we've had."

To date, 16 yachts have been forced to retire because of issues including a broken mast, damaged booms, rigging and engine problems. Almost all racers have their share of minor injuries because of the high seas and associated gale-force winds.

Look for a report on the race in the March issue of Soundings.

Click here for a local news report.

Click here to track the fleet.

Click here for reports and photos from the race website.