Conditions are expected to ease for the 65 boats still racing the Sydney to Hobart after a battering.

Battered and broken Sydney to Hobart yachts were limping to ports along the race route as the contenders for overall honours began to emerge.

Five boats quit the race and a crew member suffered a broken leg after a night of wild south-westerly gales in Bass Strait and along the Tasmanian coast.

Winds of 40 knots, with stronger gusts, and seas of up to five metres pummelled the back end of the fleet.

Crewman Ben Renshaw suffered a broken leg on board 14-metre Victorian boat Rush.

It diverted to Coles Bay on Tasmania’s east coast, where a dinghy was being organised to take the injured man to an ambulance.

The boat was expected to race on.

Queensland yacht Wedgetail motored into Hobart late on Sunday afternoon, its snapped mast clearly visible.

The rig came down as it rounded Tasman Island at about 4am (AEDT) before crew members worked frantically to cut it free.

Navigator Adrienne Cahalan, in her 22nd Sydney-Hobart, was forced to retire for the first time since the tragic 1998 race.

“There was a lot of rigging whipping around everywhere so we had to secure that,” Cahalan said.

“Once you get a boat in a sea like that, that doesn’t have the normal balances. Everyone’s got to hold on and clip on and be really super careful.”

Off Tasmania’s north-east coast, NSW 10.5-metre boat Luna Sea was being towed to St Helens by the Tasmania Police launch Van Diemen.

Luna Sea lost its rudder off Flinders Island and the two vessels were expected in port on Monday morning.

Brand new overall fancy Patrice (hull damage) was headed to Orford, WA’s Black Adder (unspecified damage) to Eden and Clipper Round the World race leader Henri Lloyd (rudder) took the total number of retirees to nine.

Southern Excellence II skipper Andrew Wenham described the conditions as “boat breaking” as his boat arrived 12th at Constitution Dock on Sunday afternoon.

“Four and five metre seas, big waves, a lot of them breaking,” he said.

“I would be seriously worried about the smaller boats that are still at sea tonight and tomorrow.”

The Bureau of Meteorology said gale conditions continued near Maria Island and winds of 30-35 knots were lashing Tasmania’s southeast.

But conditions were forecast to ease on Sunday night with winds of 15-25 knots.

Nineteen boats had finished the race with 65 still racing.

NSW 15-metre Victoire led the overall standings but Veloce, Celestial, Varuna and Wild Rose were among those still in contention for the Tattersall’s Cup, expected to be decided on Monday morning..

Wild Oats XI won line honours on Saturday evening, followed by Perpetual LOYAL and Ragamuffin.