The two leaders rounding Fort Denison on the first lap of the race. Click for more photos

SOLAS big boat challenge

The two leaders rounding Fort Denison on the first lap of the race. Photo: Nic Walker

  • The two leaders rounding Fort Denison on the first lap of the race.
  • Wild Oats leading to the finish line at  Fort Denison, Sydney Harbour.
  • LOYAL just as its R1 sail had ripped whilst coming a close second to Wild Oats.
  • Wild Oats leading to the finish line at  Fort Denison.
  • Wild Oats leading to the finish line at  Fort Denison in Sydney.
  • Tthe two leaders rounding  Fort Denison on the first lap of the race.
  • Black Jack at the start of the SOLAS big boat race on Sydney Harbour.
  • The SOLAS big boat race which took place on  Sydney Harbour.
  • Black Jack racing on Sydney Harbour.
  • Start of the SOLAS  Big Boat Race on Sydney Harbour.

Wild Oats XI will go into this year's Sydney to Hobart yacht race in sublime form after knocking off new rival Perpetual Loyal in the SOLAS Big Boat Challenge around Sydney Harbour on Tuesday.

The handicap winner was Shogun V, which is not contesting the Sydney to Hobart this year, while another high-profile contender, Wild Thing, broke the start and finished fourth.

Across the 14-nautical mile course, Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards was in control of his crew, while Perpetual Loyal, which has undergone extensive modifications, was lucky to finish the race when one of its light-weather sails was torn. This hampered the crew's chances to get a psychological edge over Wild Oats XI before the big race, which begins on Boxing Day.

Wild Oats leading at the finish line at Fort Denison.

Wild Oats leading at the finish line at Fort Denison. Photo: Nic Walker

However, sailing legend Iain Murray said the challenge was more of a practice run.

''It's the first time these boats have sailed together and they seem to be reasonably close,'' he said. ''I don't think you can read too much into it today; if it's a light race, it will favour Wild Oats, and if it's a windy day, it will definitely favour Perpetual Loyal. They're clearly different boats, but it's interesting to see the strengths of the two boats.''

Murray was recently named chief executive of Hamilton Island Yacht Club's Team Australia, which will challenge for the 35th edition of the sport's most famous race, the America's Cup.

Murray said Australia had enough gifted sailors to create a winning team, but conceded it would take time and good management.