Sailing: Whale of a surprise for Future Shock

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The Independent Online

A collision with a whale knocked the Melbourne yacht, Future Shock, out of the Sydney to Hobart Race yesterday. The incident occurred off Montague Island on the south coast of New South Wales, severely bending the rudder and damaging the hull.

As the wind turned, the hopes of the fleet of nearly 100 yachts which started the 630-mile classic from Sydney on Boxing Day of establishing a record time moved from odds-on to evens.

Other yachts also suffered damage. Another to report a brush with a whale was King Billy, while the 50-footer Yendys hit a huge stonefish on the surface and, after "hitting a hard object", Andrew Strachan's '97, one of the three boats in the British Southern Cross Cup team, was also making water but continuing to race.

In the 1993 race, '97 won line honours when gales hit the fleet hard. However, given the fast downwind start this time, it was hoped that the maxi Sayonara - owned by Larry Ellison, with another billionaire, Rupert Murdoch, as crew - would beat the time of two days 14hr 36min 56sec to Hobart set by Jim Kilroy's maxi, Kialoa, in 1975.

Last night Sayonara, chased by the 69ft Foxtel Amazon and the 75ft Brindabella, was an hour outside Kialoa's schedule. Forecasts for a further shift to the west and north-west would renew the likelihood of a record.