The annual Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
is well underway; a summer sport that began 67 years ago drawing in international interest from yachting enthusiasts across the globe. Just 13 hours in, the full course is a 628 nautical mile race often described as “the most grueling ocean race in the world.”
Starting in Sydney Harbour, the fleet sails out into the Tasman Sea, down the southeast coast of mainland Australia, across Bass Strait (which divides the mainland from the island State of Tasmania), then down the east coast of Tasmania. At Tasman Island, the fleet turns right into Storm Bay for the final sail up the Derwent River to the historic port city of Hobart.
The website has an interactive tracker
where one can track individual yachts, the entire fleet, a map of the course, and history of plot times in recent races.
More on the history of the Rolex Sydney Harbor Yacht Race:
An elegant gaff-rigged cutter on which champagne corks are frequently heard to pop; a battered, steel-hulled cutter which has sailed among the icebergs of Antarctica; a stoutly-built, double-ended cutter now cruising the Caribbean; a sloop owned and skippered by a yachtsman who was to become Prime Minister of England; maxi yachts from Australia, America, New Zealand, South Africa, Germany, and Denmark; a tiny half tonner from Tasmania with a rather suggestive insignia on its transom.
Then there’s been a state-of-the-art ocean racer developed from America’s Cup technology, a one-off little sloop from an Aussie designer, the latest design for an IMS ocean racer, a round-the-world 60-footer, the maximum 30m length Reichel/Pugh maxi taking line and handicap honors and setting a new course record, the classic Sparkman & Stephens 47 winning the Tattersall’s Cup for the third time, and a third consecutive line honors win, the first time a boat has achieved this feat since 1948.
What do these yachts of widely varying age, size, shape, construction, and rig have in common?
They have all achieved a place in Australian and international yachting history by taking line honors or winning overall handicap honors on corrected time in Australia’s most famous ocean race, the annual Rolex Sydney Hobart which ranks in world status with the Rolex Fastnet Race in England and the Newport to Bermuda Race in the USA.
The yachts mentioned above Nerida, Solo, Freya, Morning Cloud, Kialoa, New Zealand Endeavour (called Tasmania for the 50th Sydney Hobart in 1994), Ragamuffin, Morning Glory, Screw Loose, Brindabella, Ondine, Sayonara, Terra Firma, AFR Midnight Rambler, Yendys, SAP Ausmaid, Bumblebee 5, Alfa Romeo, Quest, Nokia, Wild Oats XI, and Love & War are just a few of the great ocean racing yachts which are inscribed on the Sydney Hobart honor roll at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s clubhouse at Rushcutters Bay in Sydney.
In 2008, Wild Oats XI claimed a historic fourth line honors win with Bob Steel’s TP52 Quest declared the overall winner. In a true act of generosity, Steel presented his sailing master, Mike Green, with his Rolex Yacht-master timepiece at the official prizegiving of the 64th Rolex Sydney Hobart.
Neville Crichton’s Alfa Romeo from New Zealand won the protracted line honors clash of the eight super maxis in the 65th edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, ending the four-year dominance of Wild Oats XI, the race record holder from NSW owned by Bob Oatley and skippered by Mark Richards.
Alfa Romeo finished the race in 2 days 9 hours 2 minutes 10 seconds but it was a South Australian yacht Two True, a brand new Beneteau First 40, owned by orthopedic surgeon Andrew Saies, that won the race overall. Before being declared the winner, Saies had to wait a nail-biting 24 hours and survive a protest hearing relating to an incident on Sydney Harbour at the start of the 628 nautical mile race. Once the international jury dismissed the protest, Saies’ Two True was declared the overall winner.
The 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart race will be remembered by competitors as: “the most benign and mentally frustrating Hobart ever”, largely due to the light to moderate winds experienced by the fleet of 100 yachts. It will also be remembered as the year the race organizers, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia extended the length overall from 98 feet (30m) to 100 feet (30.48m), and ran an ORCi division rule as a test of the rule.
The 66th edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race was the most physically demanding since 2004, when 56 boats retired, overcome by the conditions. The 2010 fleet withstood battering headwinds and gale-force conditions down the coast and through the notorious Bass Strait. A fleet of 87 started the 628 nautical mile race, but 69 crossed the finish line, with 18 yachts retiring, mostly bashed about by the southerly buster on the second day.
Wild Oats XI ultimately won line honors for the fifth time after a fast ride up the Derwent. She crossed the finish line at 8.37 pm in the time of two days, seven hours, 37 minutes, 20 seconds, well outside her 2005 record of 1day 18hr 40min 10sec. South Australian Geoff Boettcher and his Secret Men’s Business 3.5 crew were crowned the overall race winners and were the recipients of the Tattersall’s Cup and Rolex Yacht-Master time-piece.
A spellbinding 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart boiled over when two super maxis battled for line honors all the way to Hobart and created one of the closest finishes ever – ending in shock for one and drama for the other. Favorite for the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s yearly 628 nautical mile race, Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI, skippered by Mark Richards, has only been beaten once before (by Alfa Romeo in 2009) and she missed out on the hoped-for sixth victory this time.
Instead, the victory went to Investec Loyal, whose owner Anthony Bell had to fight the second battle in the protest room to hold onto the J.H. Illingworth Trophy. Bell’s boat claimed line honors by 3 minutes 8 seconds, crossing the line at 19.14.18 hours, in the time of 2 days 6hrs 14mins 8sec; the fourth closest finish ever.
Stephen Ainsworth’s Reichel Pugh 63 Loki was declared the overall winner of the race
The great race south, over 628 nautical miles, will start from Sydney Harbour at 1.00 pm on Boxing Day, December 26, as it has traditionally done since the inaugural race in 1945.
Over the past 67 years, the Rolex Sydney Hobart has become an icon of Australia’s summer sport, ranking in public interest with such national events as the Melbourne Cup horse race, the Davis Cup tennis, and the cricket tests between Australia and England. No yachting event in the world attracts such huge media coverage except, of course, America’s Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race, which then does the start on Sydney Harbour.
Over those years, the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia have had a marked influence on international ocean yacht racing. The club has influenced the world in race communications and sea safety, maintaining the highest standards of yacht construction, rigging, and stability for ocean racing yachts.
The club’s members have also fared well in major ocean racing events overseas, with victories in the Admiral’s Cup, Kenwood Cup, One Ton Cup, the Fastnet Race, and the BOC Challenge solo race around the word, not to mention the America’s Cup.