Sailing - UPDATE 2-Sailing-Wild Oats win sixth Sydney-Hobart in record time

* Westerly shift almost ended record chase

* Ragamuffin to face jury over race start (Confirms official finishing time, adds fresh quotes)

Dec 28 (Reuters) - Race favourites Wild Oats XI clinched their sixth Sydney to Hobart yacht race on Friday, beating their own race record.

The Mark Richards-skippered super-maxi, which had been pushed along for much of Thursday by strong northerly winds, crossed the finish line in Tasmania at 0723 (2023 GMT).

Their official time was one day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds.

Wild Oats set the previous record of one day, 18 hours, 40 minutes and 10 seconds in 2005 when they not only took line honours for the 628-nautical mile blue water classic but also won the overall handicap title as well.

"It was a really tough, testing race for the team and the crew and the gear handling," Richards told reporters at Constitution Dock after his team had initially thought they would miss the race record.

"It was a very, very tricky night last night and we got here and after last year's defeat the boys were on a real mission this year to redeem ourselves."

Last year's winners Ragamuffin Loyal - who pipped Wild Oats to the line by less than three minutes in 2011 - were about 50 nautical miles from the finish in second place when Richards and his crew crossed the line.

The Syd Fischer-owned Ragamuffin were mired in light winds and just after 0930 (2230 GMT) still had about 35 nautical miles to go to reach the finish.

However, they will face a race jury later to determine whether they will be penalised for jumping the gun in Sydney on Wednesday.

Super-maxi Lahana were in third place, about 50 nautical miles behind Ragamuffin.

WESTERLY CHANGE

Wild Oats had been surfing at more than 24 knots down the east coast of Tasmania on Thursday and at one stage were more than 30 nautical miles ahead of her 2005 record pace before a westerly change.

They rounded Tasman Island off the south-eastern tip of the island state at about 0330 (1630 GMT) and had been projected to finish about 50 minutes outside their record.

A south-westerly wind, however, picked up just before they entered the Derwent River and propelled them to the finish where they were greeted by a flotilla of small boats escorting them to victory.

Wild Oats' victory moved them within one win of equalling the record of seven held by Morna/Kurrewa IV and owner Bob Oatley said they would be back in 2013.

"We've never given up; we'll try to do it again next year," Oatley said.

"New wings on the keel helped enormously I'm sure, so did the new jib. The design, the crew, the sails and the modifications are what makes the boat fast."

The start of this year's race on Wednesday had been shrouded in controversy with the exclusion of 2003 line honours winner Wild Thing for failing to provide necessary documentation for modifications to the boat.

Just two of the 76 boats to have started the race have so far been forced to withdraw, with Living Doll suffering a broken rudder while Primitive Cool damaged their mainsail.

Both were heading back to Eden on the New South Wales coast for repairs, race organisers said. (Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Mark Meadows)