Living up to its reputation

Published on January 2nd, 2023

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is among the notable 600 nm offshore events, and in 2022 had a fleet of 109 boats for the start on December 26. Not that any of it makes sense to me.

From my seat in the USA, I struggle how this race can both implode holiday plans and succeed for 77 editions, but then again, I can’t imagine Christmas Day during the summer. Santa Claus delivers presents on a sleigh, not a surfboard.

The start inside Sydney Harbor is dangerous and how every offshore race should begin. Creating interest with great imagery and land spectating is a no-brainer, and while you could argue that 100-footers tacking upwind in a small space is asking for trouble, so is catching a pass across the middle in a football game. Sometimes you need a little trouble to turn heads.

While it was a quick downwind race, no elapsed time record was set when John Winning Jr and his Andoo Comanche team claimed line honors… the fourth time for this 100-footer. The 52-footers dominated (again) the overall race with Sam Haynes and his Celestial crew winning by 15 minutes. For the doublehanded division, which the Aussie’s call ‘Two-Handed’, the top duo was Rupert Henry and Greg O’Shea on the Lombard 34 Mistral.

This race can be immensely unfriendly, and even for a mostly offwind slide down eastern Australia, it once again made people question their sanity and made life hard for a certain species of marine life that can weigh up to 2200 pounds.

While I have mad respect for people that keep doing this race, I only needed to do another notable 600-miler – Newport to Bermuda Race – once to know that misery doesn’t need my company. I hear they’re not all as bad as in 1985, but I don’t care to test that claim.

When you grow up in California, and offshore races go downwind, with each day getting warmer, and you finish among swaying palm trees and tropical cocktails, it can screw up your sense of right and wrong … in a good way.

NOTE: This report has been revised as it previous stated how Celestial won by 15 seconds rather than 15 minutes.

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The 628 nm Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is the 77th edition in 2022 and had a fleet of 109 boats for the start on December 26. One hundred fifty seven teams set off in 2019, but since then the 2020 race was cancelled due to the pandemic with 88 entries in 2021.

From the start in Sydney Harbour, the fleet sails out into the Tasman Sea, down the south-east coast of mainland Australia, across Bass Strait (which divides the mainland from the island State of Tasmania), then down the east coast of Tasmania. At Tasman Island the fleet turns right into Storm Bay for the final sail up the Derwent River to the historic port city of Hobart.

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