Bushfire smoke sees Big Boat Challenge abandoned

SYDNEY (AP) — Smoke from bushfires surrounding Sydney has caused the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia to abandon the Big Boat Challenge, a traditional prelude to the annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

Four of the world's largest maxi yachts — Wild Oats XI, Black Jack, SHK Scallywag and InfoTrack along with the smaller yachts Naval Group and URM — were due to compete Tuesday in the short race on Sydney Harbour. The race begins the countdown to the Sydney to Hobart race which starts on Dec. 26.

CYCA officials made the decision to abandon the race, saying "with thick smoke blanketing the harbor and causing visibility issues, the club feels this was the responsible action to take."

"We're very disappointed to abandon the ... Big Boat Challenge but for the safety of spectators, public and competitors, we made the call," CYCA Commodore Paul Billingham said. "The safety of all competitors ... in addition to those working on the harbor is extremely important to us and our number one priority.

"The best available information is that nothing about the conditions will change in the short term so delaying the start wasn't an option."


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