Taking notes on Sydney Hobart 2021

Published on June 15th, 2021

Following the cancellation of the 2020 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 77th edition of this Australian Boxing Day classic has released its Notice of Race for the 628 nm course. Here are some of the highlights:

• The 2020 race was to be the 76th edition, but as it was cancelled, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia did not see reason to try that edition again. So in 2021 it is the 77th edition.

• Among the notable 600 nm races, the Sydney Hobart continues to be the only one that restricts participation to single hulled boats. No multihulls allowed.

• All crew must have a minimum age of 18 years.

• The 2020 race was to include a two-handed division for the first time. That will be tried again in 2021.

Two of the prominent perpetual trophies, Overall Winner and Line Honors, will be for fully crewed boat only. Two-handed boats will have separate Line Honors and Division prizes.

This last bullet point was not without drama as shorthanded sailors sought full inclusion as witnessed in other races. The debate raged, even including litigation, but the point being made by the CYCA is apparently related to the performance advantage being derived from autopilots.

Autopilots are not mentioned in the Notice of Race, and it is the technical advancements for this equipment which have put pressure on how or if it is to be regulated.

With sufficient investment, an autopilot now exceeds human ability, so for those competing in the two-handed division, their boats are significantly lighter due to less crew compared to fully crewed entries, with a rating boost that recognizes less stability, though the two-handed entrants remain short staffed for maneuvers and endurance.

But with the trophy issue decided for 2021, the focus will then be on those two-handed entrants that have the elite autopilot equipment, and how that will contribute to their division standings in Hobart. Standing by…

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