Sadly the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race has been cancelled for the first time in its 76 year history. Of course I would not have been visiting the Hobart waterfront this summer to see the yachts anyway. Firstly because I live too far away now and secondly because the waterfront was going to be closed to the public during the days the yachts were in port so my usual visit to take pictures would have been impossible. The race was scheduled to go ahead right up until December 19th when a growing Covid cluster in Sydney’s northern beaches area meant that most states closed their borders to visitors from NSW or expected them to quarantine for 14 days after arrival.
So I decided that this week I would share some pictures of happier years when I’ve spent a few hours around the waterfront.
The race begins on 26 December when all the yachts set off from Sydney Harbour. It’s an amazing scene which I’ve witnessed many times on television although never in person. All the entrants sail out into the harbour from Rushcutters Bay and make their way to one of two start lines.
Nielsen Park The fleet will start from start lines off Nielsen Park with boats on the northern line rounding “Victor Mark” and boats on the southern lines rounding “X-Ray Mark”, at the Heads, and all boats heading out to sea and rounding “Mark Zulu”, one nautical mile east of the Heads.
The harbour is full of spectator boats of every kind, from chartered tourist boats, yachts and cabin cruisers right up to Sydney’s biggest ferries. The spectator fleet is so numerous that there are strict rules about where they can be to ensure that they don’t impede the progress of the racing yachts.
A naval ship fires a cannon to start the race and the yachts surge forward. Of course yachts cannot do a standing start so they are all zig zagging about in the water trying not to hit each other or cross the line before the start and incur a time penalty.
It is amazing to watch them all sailing out of the harbour through the Sydney Heads. I imagine that I probably get a better view on television but I sure would like to be on one of those spectator boats, preferably a big ferry where I won’t be tossed around like a cork in the water.
My favourite thing is when the weather conditions mean there will be a spinnaker start. I love to see all the yachts raising their spinnakers although this often creates difficulties for the crews.
Modern technology has meant that TV stations can have camera people onboard several yachts during the start of the race. When the yachts reach the heads the cameraperson, wearing a wetsuit jumps overboard and is picked up by their support boat. No camera people have drowned yet to my knowledge!
In the next few days, during the time that the race would have been run, I will share posts and pictures from previous races from the Hobart perspective.