The Sydney to Hobart Ocean Race from Boxing Day in Sydney-Hobart

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{courtesy of wikipedia }

The Rolex Sydney to Hobart Ocean Race is an annual event hosted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, starting in SydneyNew South Wales, on Boxing Day and finishing in HobartTasmania. The race distance is approximately 630 nautical miles (1,170 km).[1] The race is run in conjunction with the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, and is widely considered to be one of the most difficult yacht races in the world.[2]


The race was initially planned to be a cruise by Peter Luke and some friends who had formed a club for those who enjoyed cruising as opposed to racing, however when a visiting British Royal Navy Officer, Captain John Illingworth, suggested it be made a race, the event was born. The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race has grown over the decades, since the inaugural race in 1945, to become one of the top three offshore yacht races in the world, and it now attracts maxi yachts from all around the globe. The 2019 race was the 75th edition.

Australia’s foremost offshore sailing prize is The George Adams Tattersall Cup, awarded to the ultimate winner of the handicap competition based on the length, shape, weight and sail dimensions of the yacht. Much public attention however, focuses on the race for “line honours” – the first boat across the finishing line, typically the newest and largest Maxi yacht in the fleet.

Along with the Newport-Bermuda Race and the Fastnet Race, it is considered one of the classic big offshore races with each distance approximately 625 nautical miles (719 mi; 1,158 km).

In 2017, LDV Comanche set a new race record finishing in 1 day, 9 hours, 15 minutes and 24 seconds, beating Perpetual Loyal’s record of 1 day, 13 hours, 31 minutes and 20 seconds, set the previous year.[3] Wild Oats XI, who crossed the line first, received a 1-hour penalty for her role in a near-miss collision at the beginning of the race and disregard of the starboard rule, handing LDV Comanche line honours.[4] Wild Oats XI completed the course in an unofficial record time of 1 day, 08 hours, 48 minutes and 50 seconds.

Wild Oats XI has won line honours on 9 separate occasions (2005–2008, 2010, 2012–2014, 2018) and is the first boat to have claimed the treble – race record, line honours and overall winner.[5]


Bass Strait, and the waters of the Pacific Ocean immediately to its east, are renowned for their high winds and difficult seas. Although the race mostly takes place in the Tasman Sea, the shallowness of Bass Strait and the proximity to the race course means that the fleet is very much under the influence of the Strait as they transit from the mainland to Flinders Island. Even though the race is held in the Australian summer, southerly buster storms often make the Sydney–Hobart race cold, bumpy, and very challenging for the crew. It is typical for a considerable number of yachts to retire, often at Eden on the New South Wales south coast, the last sheltered harbour before Flinders Island.

The inaugural race in 1945 had nine starters. John Illingworth’s Rani, built at Speers Point was the winner, taking six days, 14 hours and 22 minutes. Race records for the fastest (elapsed) time dropped rapidly. However, it took 21 years for the 1975 record by Kialoa from the United States to be broken by the German yacht Morning Glory in 1996, and then only by a dramatic 29 minutes, as she tacked up the River Derwent against the clock. In 1999 Denmark’s Nokia sailed the course in one day, 19 hours, 48 minutes and two seconds, a record which stood until 2005 when Wild Oats XI won line and handicap honours in 1 day 18 hr 40 min 10 sec.

Winning times from 1945

There have been some notable achievements by yachts over the years. Sydney yacht, Morna, won the secondthird and fourth races (1946–1948) and then, under new owners Frank and John Livingston from Victoria, took a further four titles as Kurrewa IV in 1954, 1956, 1957 and 1960. Other yachts to win three or more titles are Astor (1961, 1963 and 1964) and Bumblebee IV firstly in 1979 and then again in 1988 and 1990 as Ragamuffin. When Wild Oats XI won back-to-back titles in 2006, it was the first yacht to do so since Astor in the 1960s.[6] Wild Oats XI claimed its third consecutive line honours title in the 2007 race, re-writing history by being only the second yacht after Rani in the inaugural 1945 race to win line and handicap honours and break the race record in the same year (2005) and then only the second yacht after Morna to win three line honours titles in a row. In 2008Wild Oats XI broke Morna’s long-standing record of three titles in a row, by completing a four-in-a-row, the first yacht to achieve that remarkable achievement.[7] For the handicap race the highly respected Halvorsen brothers’ Freya won three titles back-to-back (the only yacht in history to do so) between 1963 and 1965. Although not consecutive, Love & War equalled Freya’s three titles by winning its third in 2006 to add to its 1974 and 1978 titles.

In the 1994 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, the making waves foundation’s crew were the first fully disabled team to compete in an ocean race and Australian Paralympic sitting volleyball player Albert Lee was apart of this team.[8]

The 1998 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race was marred by tragedy when, during an exceptionally strong storm (which had similar strength winds to a lower-category hurricane), five boats sank and six people died. Of the 115 boats that started, only 44 made it to Hobart. As a result, the crew eligibility rules were tightened, requiring a higher minimum age and experience. G. Bruce Knecht wrote a book about this race, The Proving Ground.[9] A coronial enquiry into the race was critical of both the race management at the time and the Bureau of Meteorology.[10]

In 1999 the race record was broken by Nokia, a water-ballasted Volvo Ocean 60 (VO60) yacht. She sailed the course in 1 day, 19 hours, 48 minutes and 2 seconds. Brindabella reached Hobart just under one hour later (1 day, 20 hours, 46 minutes, 33 seconds) and Wild Thing was a close third (1 day, 21 hours, 13 minutes, 37 seconds). The previous Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race record had been set by Morning Glory (2 days, 14 hours, 7 minutes, 10 seconds) in 1996.[11]

Sydney to Hobart entrants moored up at Rushcutters Bay, 25 December 2004

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