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Sydney-Hobart regatta: when winning against the sea is priceless

Six hundred and twenty-eight nautical miles of southern regatta to connect the bay of Sydney and Battery Point, a suburb of Hobart, along the small fishing villages of New South Wales. It then crosses the Tasmanian Sea and the Brass Strait before turning west into Storm Bay and entering the Derwent River to finally reach Tasmania's capital. In summary, here is the route of the Sydney-Hobart, renamed the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race since 2002 with the entry as a sponsor of the famous Swiss watch company. One of the most difficult and beloved regattas in the world, no other nautical event attracts as many spectators as those who watch the start of the race on the Sydney Harbour waterfront, almost a national holiday in the southern hemisphere.

The Sydney-Hobart route has never changed, but journey times have gradually decreased.

The Sidney-Hobart is a real must-see event of the Australian summer that, since the first edition more than seventy years ago, takes place on the days between Christmas and New Year, with departure fixed in St. Stephen's Day (known as Boxing Day in the United Kingdom and in all countries of the Commonwealth) and arrival in the historic port of Hobart just in time to toast to the New Year.
The Sydney-Hobart route has never changed, but travel times have gradually decreased
Organised by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia together with the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, the regatta was born in 1945, a few months after the end of the Second World War, when John Illingworth, captain of the British Navy, suggested to Peter Luke, who together with some friends had founded a sailing club, to create a race on the route already visited by many pleasure cruises.

Crews and statistics from the first regatta till now

Nine boats took part in the first edition and it was Rani, the yacht captained by Illingworth himself and the only non-Australian boat, who crossed the finish line after six days, 14 hours and 22 minutes. A rare exception for a contest that will then be the exclusive prerogative of Australian, New Zealand or American boats. Peter Luke was the last to arrive with his boat, Wayfarer, after 11 days, 6 hours and 20 minutes, which remain the record for the slowest crossing in the history of the race.
Female arm picks up the rope from inside a boat
Already at the second edition (1946) there were 19 boats in competition and the participation was open to women. Jane Tate of Hobart competed with her husband Horrie on board of Active and in the same year it was decided to draw up two rankings:

  1. The Line Honours, which rewards the first boat to physically reach the finish line;
  2. A virtual ranking called Handicap, with times corrected according to coefficients that take into account the type of boat used and its speed.

The course, however, has never changed and, while the number of participants has grown exponentially reaching the record of 371 boats in 1994, travel times have gradually decreased.

Illustration of two types of racing boat
The completion of the race was completed by passing from the three days and a little more employed in 1962 by American Huey Long on his yacht Ondine, followed by the two days and 14 hours of fellow countryman Jim Kilroy with Kialoa II in 1975, until the day, 18 hours and 40 minutes of Australian Bob Oatley on Wild Oats XI in 2005. The current one-day, 9-hour, 15-minute and 24-second record was set by Jimmy Spithill on Comanche in the last edition, after the jury penalised the winning Wild Oats XI boat by an hour for an irregular turn at the start.

Bluewater Classic, a regatta full of anecdotes

Also known in the sailing world as the Bluewater Classic, and limited to boats no larger than 100 feet but no smaller than 30, the race remains among the most prestigious and difficult in the world because of the intense ocean currents and strong winds that characterise the area, as well as for the duration of the race. It is too long to reach the end with all the same energy, but too short to be able to afford to rest.
Steering a sailboat
These difficulties, which have repeatedly caused real tragedies, as in the dramatic 1998 edition, when a violent and sudden storm (comparable in intensity to a tornado) caused five ships to sink causing six deaths. In that year only 43 of the 115 boats present at the start arrived in Hobart. The race also saw far less tragic, but still heartbreaking, finals, as when in 1982 Condor of Bermuda won against his opponent Apollo III for just seven seconds, in a final rush to the photo finish.

The race remains among the most prestigious and difficult in the world because of the intense ocean currents and strong winds that characterise the area.

Whether you arrive after a storm or after a quieter cruise with the sun, day or night, it doesn't matter: to welcome participants on the shores of Hobart there will always be a festive crowd of spectators, officials and journalists who will accompany the crews to celebrate the end of the race to the sound of beer in one of the many pubs overlooking the city's waterfront, such as the Customs House Hotel, in a sort of third half rugby in seafood sauce that remains the most coveted final prize.
Coppia di anziani guardano la regata Sydney-Hobart
In spite of the millions of euros that it costs to set up a team and a boat to take part in the race, the winners are not paid any prize of material value - except for the watch that the sponsor donates to the two skippers of the winning boats in the two rankings.

Winning the challenge against the sea is priceless.

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