MELBOURNE: Australian super-maxi Wild Oats XI clinched their ninth Sydney to Hobart line honours on Friday in one of the closest finishes in the race's history.

The Mark Richards-skippered Wild Oats XI finished the 74th edition of the 630-nautical mile (1,170 kilometre) race in Hobart at about 8:07 am local (2107 GMT, Thursday).

Comanche, last year's winners, and Black Jack were locked in a virtual dead heat match race for second about 3.6 nautical miles behind Wild Oats XI.

The fourth remaining super-maxi in the race, Infotrack, was about three miles behind Black Jack.

The closest finish in the race's history was in 1982 when Bermuda's Condor beat Australian yacht Apollo by seven seconds.

This year all four super-maxis had been in close contact since leaving Sydney Harbour on Wednesday, with the lead changing several times as they battled fickle and shifting winds.

Wild Oats XI overhauled overnight leader Comanche shortly after 4 a.m. local time and took advantage of the weakening winds to extend the lead as they approached the River Derwent.

Victory for Wild Oats XI made up for last year's finish when they crossed in a race record time, only to have a one-hour penalty imposed following a near collision with Comanche about 15 minutes after the start.

Comanche were awarded line honours in a race record time of one day, nine hours, 15 minutes and 24 seconds, with Wild Oats XI relegated to second.

The fifth super-maxi in this year's fleet, Hong Kong's Scallywag, retired a few hours into the race with a broken bowsprit.

Copyright Reuters, 2018