The 2014 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is underway.
At 13:00 local time, in scorching conditions and a 15 to 18 knot southeasterly breeze in Sydney Harbour, the impressive fleet of 117 international yachts began the famous 628-nautical mile offshore race to Hobart, Tasmania.
The 117 competing yachts, including five 100-foot Maxis, represents the race's largest number of starters since 1994.
Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House provided the iconic backdrop as the fleet began a challenging trek to Hobart with hundreds of thousands of spectators watching on from the shoreline.
Of the five Maxis, Jim Clark's Comanche (USA) made the early gains in the race's 70th edition; reaching the first mark in record time and setting a blistering pace. Seven-time line honours winner Wild Oats XI was in close pursuit.
"We couldn't be more ready at this stage," said Comanche skipper Ken Read shortly before the race start. "The team has done a Herculean effort to get the boat ready. We are psyched about the weather forecast; a bit of reaching across the Bass Strait. It looks like a nice sail boat racing day. It will get breezy, lumpy but if our boat can't handle 25 knots then something is wrong. It's the end of the race which looks difficult, light. We are here to compete, it's the fun part of our job."
The race record for leading yachts to beat is the 1 day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds set by Bob Oatley's Wild Oats XI in 2012.