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Sydney to Hobart racers set sail in Australia

The premier sailing race in Australia is underway, with 88 yachts departing Sydney Harbor. Favorable weather conditions could mean the course record is set to be broken.

Thousands of spectators lined the shores of Sydney Harbor on Monday to watch the participants of the 72nd Sydney to Hobart sailing race set forth.

The race, which is Australia's top sailing event, runs 630 miles down the east coast of Australia.

It is considered to be one of the world's most challenging races, partly due to its route through the Bass Strait.

Among the contenders for this year's race is Wild Oats XI, which has won on eight previous occasions. The 2016 edition of Sydney to Hobart also features the first Korean entry, in addition to boats from around Australia, Europe, and the United States.

Wild Oats XI also holds the current course record, completing the 2012 race in one day, 18 hours, 23 minutes, 12 seconds.

With a favorable weather forecast, observers believe conditions are perfect for an attempt on the record. It's not always the case. In 1998, six men perished when five boats sunk during the crossing, in the grip of a sudden storm. 

The race is expected to finish on Wednesday in Hobart.

mz/rc (Reuters, AFP)