Monday, December 26, 2016

The Greatest Race

Watch for updates.
With all the Christmas plates cleared away, the Taverners are settled on the edges of their seats for the Traditional Boxing Day in Oz. With fine ales at hand we all gathered around the TVs and the computers to see the yachts, big and little, set off on the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.   A rousing hymn struck up, with a little variation....

Oh Queen of Heaven, Star of the Sea, pray for the wanderers (under sail with spinnakers straining from a 30kt Northerly as they sail down the south-east coast of the Great Brown Land), pray for me.

A gorgeous summer's day on Sydney harbour and 88 boats, 13 huge buggers on the front line, with 39 modest ones on a line behind and 36 little tiddlers behind them, pressed forward at the start gun.

I follow the fleet on a marine traffic site.  Here the boats jockey for position and sort themselves out half an hour before the start.  Just some of the boats, of course - those that carry the transponders.

So, what is it all about, some furriners may ask.

Boxing Day in Australia is the perfect excuse to fire up the barbeque, devour leftover Christmas feasts and kick back to watch one of the world’s toughest yacht races. The 2016 Rolex Sydney Hobart will see an 89-strong fleet aiming to make it from Sydney, down Australia’s east coast, across Bass Strait and into Hobart. While a handful will race for line honours, every crew could potentially claim The Tattersall’s Cup – the coveted prize for the overall victor.

High seas most of the 628 nautical miles/1,163 kilometres/722 miles. This distance represents what is known as the ‘rhumbline’, the most direct route from Sydney to Hobart. And the Bass Strait. Oh Boy.

To take part a vessel cannot be more than 100 foot. or less than 30 foot.

The Sydney–Hobart Yacht Race, arguably the world's greatest ocean race, [Now, let us be serious. Who but some jealous furriner would argue? !] began when Jack Earl, a marine artist, planned a cruise from Sydney to Hobart on the family ketch, leaving on Boxing Day, 1945. Friends decided to make a race of it, and eventually nine yachts took part. The winner of both handicap and line honours, John Illingworth's Rani, took 6 days, 14 hours, 22 minutes, while Peter Luke's Wayfarer still holds the record for the slowest time: 11 days, 6 hours, 20 minutes. 

Nokia's 1999 journey was the fastest – 1 day, 19 hours, 48 minutes.
2016 will be a fast one too. Perhaps a new record?

The fleet has averaged eighty yachts, with a record 371 yachts for the race's fiftieth anniversary in 1994. Visitors throng Constitution Dock in Hobart to see the entrants, which range in size from the tiny Klinger, 8.23 metres long, to super high-tech maxis that dominate the quest for Line Honours. The closest finish was in 1982 when Condor of Bermuda beat Apollo across the line by seven seconds.

Update. after 5 hours..... see a video of mayhem at the start in this link below.

And for an extended hour and a half lead up to and into the race at this link.....

Not all yachts make the finish, and rough weather can cause many withdrawals. In 1993, only 38 yachts finished out of 110 starters. A total of nine sailors have drowned, with the worst year by far 1998, when in exceptionally rough weather, six sailors died. But there are sailors for whom the Sydney-Hobart is an integral part of their life. Sixty yachtsmen have sailed in 25 or more races. Tasmanian John Bennetto holds the record of 43 races, finishing in eighteen consecutive races as owner/skipper of Mirrabooka.

So,  you might ask, what happens to the 'withdrawls? And how do they decide who the winners is when the contestants are so 'unequal'?  We were fortunate to have two knowledgeable folk on hand to tell us.  Andrew McGarry spoke about the 'handicap'.
Sydney to Hobart: line honours v handicap honours — who is the real winner of the race?

From athletics to horse racing to Formula One to vast majority of races operate using a simple concept — the first competitor to make it to the finish line is the winner.

In the Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race, however, things get a little more clouded.

News coverage, and public interest, tends to follow the boats at the front who are chasing line honours — the right to be called the first across the line at Constitution Dock in Hobart.

That competition is usually limited to three or four "super-maxis", the biggest, fastest boats in the fleet, which are at least 100-feet in length.
For line honours, the winner gets the J.H Illingworth Trophy, named after Captain John Illingworth, who won the first edition of the race on Rani.

Among most sailors, however, the more important challenge is the race for handicap honours.

The winner on handicap wins the Tattersall's Cup, which was donated to the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia in 1946. The name of the 1945 winner was subsequently added.

Boats are rated (or handicapped) by their expected speed based on the vessel's size and other statistics.
In years where an entry breaks the race record, such as Wild Oats XI in 2012 — where the super-maxi finished in one day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds — they usually win handicap as well as line honours.
But most of the time, handicap honours are won by a smaller, physically slower boat, which nevertheless outdoes its opposition when time is adjusted for size and other factors.
The Commodore of the CYCA, John Markos, says the handicap system has been designed "to create an equaliser" for the fleet.
"There are so many contexts that go into creating the system," he said.
"You talk about displacement, how much water that a boat displaces (when fully loaded). Then there is sail area, that has an effect, and the mast size does too.
"There are a lot of these things that have been studied closely to come up with the formula.
"That (handicap honours) is the one that counts for a great many sailors."
Spilling out of the Heads.

According to Commodore Markos, there will be plenty of people racing boats that are much older, up to 50 years old, who he says will still be capable of making the 628 nautical miles to Hobart and giving it a shot for handicap honours.

Last year's winner on handicap, Balance, was owned and skippered by Paul Clitheroe.

Balance's crew had to wait for half a day to find out if they had won, because there was a boat still out on the water called Quikpoint Azzurro, skippered by Shane Kearns, that had a handicap that could have won it the Tattersall's Cup.

For a while it looked like Quikpoint Azzurro, the smallest boat in the fleet, at just 10.1m long, would win the race overall.
But the wind that was pushing Quikpoint Azzurro toward victory died in the River Derwent, and in the end, Balance won on handicap by less than three hours.
There's a wide range of sailors in the blue water classic
"Many of the people there (in the race) are professional sailors who are there to race to their maximum performance," Markos said.
"Then you have the Corinthians — amateur crews with no professionals on board — they want to have a bash at their division ... and they may be capable of winning the race (on handicap).
"Then you have design classes, like the TP52, there are about 10 of them in the fleet. It all comes down to the crew, because the boats are virtually identical.
"And then you have some people who just want to sail down to Hobart!"
In the end, we return to the question of line honours.
"I think line honours will probably be contested by the four supermaxis, the 100-footers," he said.
"Each of them will find their own weather pattern. Some will be set up for downwind, some for upwind. It (the result) really will turn on the weather.
"These boats will be at the centre of technical development, with large sails and (crews with) experience at the elite level."
First and foremost, there is Wild Oats XI, which is the most successful entrant in Sydney-to-Hobart history, with a record eight line honours wins.
A welcome finish in a quiet harbour which will 'explode' with partying for at least a week.

Wild Oats XI has also had two clean sweeps, taking out line honours, handicap honours and the race record. She will be skippered again by Mark Richards.

Next is Perpetual LOYAL, which will hope for a better run than the last two years. In 2014, LOYAL was forced to retire on the second morning after hitting an object at sea the previous night and taking on water.

Last year, owner and skipper Anthony Bell had to turn the boat around and head back to Sydney for the second straight year after LOYAL suffered hull damage. Bell and his crew will be hoping for big winds to take advantage of LOYAL's big hull.

Next is Scallywag. This supermaxi was previously raced as Syd Fischer's Ragamuffin 100 - now owned by Seng Huang Lee, Scallywag has a bigger mainsail and will also be looking for strong winds in a bid for line honours.
Last, but by no means least, of the four is CQS, skippered by Ludde Ingvall. Formerly a 90-footer, Nicorette, which won line honours in 2004, CQS has had a serious transformation — with a reverse curved bow, wings and a canting keel, and lengthened to the 100-foot mark to make it a supermaxi.
It is a Very tough race. The seas can he high and the Bass Straight is a real bugger. The Roaring Forties ( latitude 40 south) really does roar through the Strait and even large powered ships wallow around in it.  It is the wise skipper who can gauge that his boat is not going to make it, and chooses a safe harbour. And Eden is it. As Jessica Haynes told:

Eden's quirky tradition during the Sydney to Hobart

It's a place nestled on the south-east coast of New South Wales and popular with tourists.

But every year, Eden also becomes a safe haven for boaties in need during the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.
And the first boat in even gets a gong.

What's the prize?

It's the First Into Eden Trophy and it's awarded to the first boat to reach the shore.

It might have been forced to retire due to bad weather, an injury on board or damage to equipment.
Either way, they get their name on a piece of polished wood as well as a trophy to take home.
It's awarded by Eden's Twofold Bay Yacht Club (TBYC).
Why Eden?
You have to ask ??

TBYC Commodore Robin Arthur said it's the last point of return before the Bass Strait.

"There's always boats that port into Eden, it's the last stop before you ... get over to Tassie," Mr Arthur said.

"Once you've passed Eden there's not anywhere you can stop."

Who won it last year?
Frantic, skippered by former Wallaby Mick Martin, took the honours, followed by German yacht Haspa.
The town had an influx of boats last year, with the 2015 race battered by a south-westerly gale.

Mr Arthur said there was quite a conversation among the sailors who retired to the town.

"Of course nobody wants (the trophy) ... you've got to do the whole thing tongue in check," Mr Arthur said.

"And last year was quite funny ... (Mick Martin) was a lovely guy and he was quoted as saying he won 'the lump of wood'.
"That's the nickname for it now."
Why do they award it?
For years Eden locals have helped out boats and crews when they arrive, offering a roof over their head, a dry bed and a warm shower.
TBYC club member Robyn Malcolm, who hands out the award, said the tradition started more than two decades ago.
"I think it started in 1993, the town was suffering a bit financially and somebody decided we (would) have a wharf party," she said.
"Somebody organised the trophy and it's been going ever since.
"It's a lovely piece of timber.
"It's meant as a bit of fun, and it's taken in that way."
Do the local businesses look forward to the Sydney to Hobart?
Yep, but they don't always have a spare bed.
Great Southern 2IC Stephanie Robin said the hotel had hosted many boaties during the event.
"We have had quite a few," Mrs Robin said.
"A lot of them stay here while things are getting fixed.
"You hear all of their stories when they arrive."
Snug Cove Bed and Breakfast owner Jennifer Shuwalow said while they were booked out regardless of the event, it was a point of interest for guests staying.
"This year we might get one boat … we might get 20," she said.
And the favour is returned
The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia host a group of students from Eden Marine High School to return to the favour to the Twofold Bay Yacht Club for looking after competitors during the Sydney to Harbour.
The students attend their youth academy and spend most of their time sailing on Sydney Harbour.
"It's their way of saying thankyou, it's a really great thing," Ms Malcolm said.
My cave looks out over the final dash so I am planning on taking a few snaps which I shall put up here later. That is, if it is daylight and fine weather. At the speeds likely this time the winner could arrive in the night or the weather might have turned nasty. We shall see.

I will update this report !

And the winner is......

Drink up. 



  1. easy and entertaining read. Thanks. Loli

    1. Pleasure m'dear. High time you dropped by :) Did it have to cost a Knight?

  2. Yes, yes, yes, the definitive take. Well done, sir.

    1. Not bad, I agree. It will be even better in a day or so with the finish snaps.

  3. Looking forward to seeing your photos of the race finish (if the ships arrive at a favourable time to provide the opportunity) :-)

    1. It may be a night. The race leader (past) has dropped out (Wild Oats) and the fleet is spread out but making fast time.

  4. Really good blog post! Very informative. I had no idea Eden was the place to bail out; it's a beautiful town.

    1. It certainly is a fine spot. Fine post too. !! :)


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