In less than 48 hours the 75th rendition of the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, sponsored once again by Rolex kicks off with the now traditional charge down Sydney Harbour flanked by, no doubt, a massive spectator fleet as usual.
This time three years ago we were running round like crazy putting the final touches together on the Cookson 50 UBOX for her trip south. It was to be a successful race for Wang Bin’s team with the first ever Chinese podium finish in the Tatersall Cup and an overall win in ORCi.
Now she is in the hands of Paul Buchholz and his team under the name of Exstasea and sadly she is the only real interest from Mainland China as there are no Chinese flagged boats in this, the biggest fleet, well, since the last significant anniversary of the race back with the 50th rendition.
There is however a Hong Kong, China entry in Scallywag, skippered by David Witt. Often maligned Witty is a much deeper character than many give him credit for and a good bloke. It would be cool, from this writer’s point of view, to see him leading the big boats out through Sydney Heads and all the way to Constitution Dock.
No doubt, as usual the live coverage of the start will focus on the 100 footers and difficult not to see why as it is from these (six boats this year) we will likely see the line honours winner although with relatively light conditions forecast it is unlikely the course record will be threatened..
The Tatersall Cup however, or a top ten finish, is more likely to come from the 50 footers. Incredibly the average length of the overall winner over the last 20 years has been around the 50 foot mark with the Cookson 50 alone having 14 top ten finishes in the last 10 years which compares to only 4 times for the 100s.
There are few annual yacht races, if any, that can come close to the RSHYR in terms of media and public interest with an unbelievable percentage of Aussies watching it live, on the water, the various headlands, or on the television (terrestrial and internet).I wont quote the figure as I am bound to be wrong but such a large mass of the Australian public to set aside much of Boxing Day, a major family holiday rather than “throwing another shrimp on the barbie is truly amazing and shows the excitement our sport can generate if the venue is right and the promotion is correct.
The organisers, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, should be congratulated for keeping the buzz of this great and challenging event alive. One of the ways is the start is livestreamed on the official event website. Start time is 1300 Aussie time, work out the time difference yourselves to be in front of your computer screen for what, historically, has been awesome footage.
And if your interest extends to the whole race all the boats are fitted with trackers so you can follow your favourite all the way to Constitution Dock.
Incredible to think what would have happened if Captain John Illingworth, when fellow Sydney sailors suggested a summer cruise down to Hobart, Tasmania, had not said he would only take part f it was a race. From those 5 boats, 75 years ago, this year we have 175 entrants. Doubtful if 75 years on we would see so many taking part in a cruise in company. Funny how history can sometimes turn on such a decision.
We wish all the sailors a fast but safe trip down the coast, across the Bass Straight, up the Derwent to Hobart. Just shows the effort some people will go to, to get to a great party. And make no mistake the Hobart parties are the stuff of legend, just ask Chas from Taz. – SS.
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