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Sydney Hobart Yacht Race Is Off To A Great Start, Several Irish Crews Competing in Offshore Classic

26th December 2016
Triton and Chinese Whisper (with Shane Diviney of Howth onboard) making good progress shortly after the 2016 Rolex Sydney Hobart race start Triton and Chinese Whisper (with Shane Diviney of Howth onboard) making good progress shortly after the 2016 Rolex Sydney Hobart race start

The 2016 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, featuring an international fleet of 88 yachts – with several key Irish crew involved – commenced at 13:00 local time on a perfect Sydney summer’s day. The combination of excellent weather conditions, the sight of the competing yachts sailing full force under spinnaker on the passage through Sydney Heads, and shorelines packed with spectators, set the scene for one of the more memorable race starts in recent times.

Race Start

The fleet comprises four 100-ft Maxis – CQS, Perpetual LOYAL, Scallywag and Wild Oats XI – all harbouring the ambition of arriving first in Hobart and claiming line honours as fastest finisher. Their hopes have been boosted by the promise of strong conditions. “We are excited by the forecast and that records may be challenged,” revealed John Markos, Commodore of organisers the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA).

Fourth to pass the Heads was eight-time line honours winner Wild Oats XI who recovered impressively after an uncharacteristically sluggish start. Given the heavy conditions forecast and need for extra weight on board, Wild Oats XI is carrying a record crew of 22 sailors. “All four Maxis are going to have their moments,” explained Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards. “We don’t know the history of CQS as she is new with a radical design. The Scallywag team have done a lot of yachting this year, their teamwork is good, and they are a different animal to what we have raced against in the last few editions. Perpetual LOYAL are a great team with more talent onboard this year.”

While the focus during the early hours of the race is on line honours, the contest for the race’s most significant prize, overall victory on race handicap, is the principle target for the competing yachts. Andrew Saies, owner of the 40-ft Two True, won the Rolex Sydney Hobart in 2009 and is returning this year after following the last few editions from the comfort of dry land. “The weather forecast points to a great sail, but perhaps not ideal for our size of boat. To win this race you need a set of particular conditions to come together for your boat to win. It’s extremely hard to win this race.”

The fleet is rich and diverse, featuring yachts as small as 30-ft, seasoned campaigners setting personal records and those like the predominantly Swedish-crewed Matador, taking part for the first time. “It has taken a year of preparation and a great challenge getting everything sorted,” revealed owner Jonas Grander. “This is a legendary race and one we’ve read about so many times. It’s my dream to take part.”

The final number of starters was confirmed as 88 following the late withdrawal of Jason Bond’s Beneteau 47.7, Enigma.

Published in Sydney to Hobart

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The Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is an annual offshore yacht racing event with an increasingly international exposure attracting super maxi yachts and entries from around tne world. It is hosted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, starting in Sydney, New South Wales on Boxing Day and finishing in Hobart, Tasmania. The race distance is approximately 630 nautical miles (1,170 km).

The Sydney Hobart Yacht Race - FAQs

The number of Sydney Hobart Yacht Races held by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia since 1945 is 75

6,257 completed the Sydney Hobart Yacht race, 1036 retired or were disqualified)

About 60,061 sailors have competed in the Sydney Hobart Race between 1945 and 2019

Largest fleets: 371 starters in the 50th race in 1994 (309 finished); 154 starters in 1987 (146 finished); 179 starters in 1985 (145 finished); 151 starters in 1984 (46 finished); 173 started in 1983 (128 finished); 159 started in 1981 (143 finished); 147 started in 1979 (142 finished); 157 started in 2019 (154 finished)

116 in 2004 (59 finished); 117 in 2014 (103 finished); 157 in 2019 (154 finished)

Nine starters in the inaugural Sydney Hobart Yacht Race in 1945

In 2015 and 2017 there were 27, including the 12 Clipper yachts (11 in 2017). In the record entry of 371 yachts in the 50th in 1994, there were 24 internationals

Rani, Captain John Illingworth RN (UK). Design: Barber 35’ cutter. Line and handicap winner

157 starters, 154 finishers (3 retirements)

IRC Overall: Ichi Ban, a TP52 owned by Matt Allen, NSW. Last year’s line honours winner: Comanche, Verdier Yacht Design and VPLP (FRA) owned by Jim Cooney and Samantha Grant, in 1 day 18 hours, 30 minutes, 24 seconds. Just 1hour 58min 32secs separated the five super maxis at the finish 

1 day 9 hours 15 minutes and 24 seconds, set in 2017 by LDV Comanche after Wild Oats XI was penalised one hour in port/starboard incident for a finish time of 1d 9h 48m 50s

The oldest ever sailor was Syd Fischer (88 years, 2015).

As a baby, Raud O'Brien did his first of some six Sydney Hobarts on his parent's Wraith of Odin (sic). As a veteran at three, Raud broke his arm when he fell off the companionway steps whilst feeding biscuits to the crew on watch Sophie Tasker sailed the 1978 race as a four-year-old on her father’s yacht Siska, which was not an official starter due to not meeting requirements of the CYCA. Sophie raced to Hobart in 1979, 1982 and 1983.

Quite a number of teenage boys and girls have sailed with their fathers and mothers, including Tasmanian Ken Gourlay’s 14-year-old son who sailed on Kismet in 1957. A 12-year-old boy, Travis Foley, sailed in the fatal 1998 race aboard Aspect Computing, which won PHS overall.

In 1978, the Brooker family sailed aboard their yacht Touchwood – parents Doug and Val and their children, Peter (13), Jacqueline (10), Kathryne (8) and Donald (6). Since 1999, the CYCA has set an age limit of 18 for competitors

Jane (‘Jenny’) Tate, from Hobart, sailed with her husband Horrie aboard Active in the 1946 Race, as did Dagmar O’Brien with her husband, Dr Brian (‘Mick’) O’Brien aboard Connella. Unfortunately, Connella was forced to retire in Bass Strait, but Active made it to the finish. The Jane Tate Memorial Trophy is presented each year to the first female skipper to finish the race

In 2019, Bill Barry-Cotter brought Katwinchar, built in 1904, back to the start line. She had competed with a previous owner in 1951. It is believed she is the oldest yacht to compete. According to CYCA life member and historian Alan Campbell, more than 31 yachts built before 1938 have competed in the race, including line honours winners Morna/Kurrewa IV (the same boat, renamed) and Astor, which were built in the 1920s.

Bruce Farr/Farr Yacht Design (NZL/USA) – can claim 20 overall wins from 1976 (with Piccolo) up to and including 2015 (with Balance)

Screw Loose (1979) – LOA 9.2m (30ft); Zeus II (1981) LOA 9.2m

TKlinger, NSW (1978) – LOA 8.23m (27ft)

Wild Oats XI (2012) – LOA 30.48m (100ft). Wild Oats XI had previously held the record in 2005 when she was 30m (98ft)

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