20 weird and wonderful facts about the famous Rolex Sydney Hobart Race

Yachting World

From the fastest to the slowest, the most successful and the most historic, some key facts from the 72-year history of the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, the world’s most famous southern hemisphere offshore race

The Rolex Sydney Hobart race is one of a handful of bucket list races that take place across the globe and sits alongside the Rolex Fastnet Race as one of the world’s best know sailing races.

As the name implies the Sydney Hobart race is a 630nm yacht race starting in Sydney, New South Wales, and finishing in Hobart, Tasmania. The race sets off each year on Boxing Day and sees boats fighting it out for line honours and the overall win on handicap.

cruising-australia-2018-sydney-hobart-credit-rolex-carlo-borlenghi

The start of the Sydney Hobart Race means a congested Sydney Harbour. Photo: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

1 – The race is organised annually by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) and begins on 26 December.

Multiple winner of the sydney Hobart Wild Oats XI. Photo: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

2 – Australian Bob Oatley’s 100ft Wild Oats XI has won line honours a record nine times (2005-2008, 2010, 2012-2014, and 2018).

3 – 2020 was the first time the Sydney Hobart has been cancelled in the 75 history of the race, with Covid forcing the cancellation.

4 – 2021 is the first time the Sydney Hobart race will allow doublehanded entries. A reflection of the sports fastest growing sector, shorthanded offshore racing.

5 – The first race took place in 1945. Originally the idea was to cruise in company to Hobart, but British naval officer and keen yachtsman John Illingworth suggested turning it into a race…

6 – Illingworth won the first race in his 35ft double-ended cutter Rani, finishing in 6 days, 14 hours and 22 minutes

7 – The course record is 1 day, 9 hours, 15 minutes and 24 seconds and was set in 2017 by the supermaxi Comanche.

8 – The smallest yacht to win overall on handicap was Screiv Loose in 1979. She was 30ft (9.1m) overall.

9 – The smallest ever fleet was in the first race in 1945, which had just 9 entries.

10 – The largest fleet ever to do the race was in 1994, on the 50th anniversary, when 371 yachts started, and 309 finished.

11 – The slowest elapsed time belongs to the 40ft yawl Wayfarer, which belonged to Peter Luke, a co-founder of the CYCA. In the first race in 1945 he finished in 11 days, 6 hours and 20 minutes.

Maxi Yacht Brindabella in the very strong conditions during 2013 Sydney-Hobart Race. Strong conditions are regularly experienced but nothing compares to the 1998 disaster. Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

12 – The 1998 Sydney Hobart race made global headlines when a hurricane-force storm tore across the fleet. Five boats sank, six people died. A resulting report recommended changes to preparations and sea survival training that came to be a step change in ocean racing worldwide.

13 – On average, some 17 per cent of the fleet retires.

14 – The oldest skipper to date was John Walker who raced in 2008 aged 86. He retired then – he and and his boat had achieved the milestone of 25 Sydney Hobarts.

15 – The most successful designer of overall winners has been Bruce Farr, with 17 overall winners.

16 – Women first participated in the Sydney Hobart in 1946. The first woman to take part was Jane Tate, whose boat Active was the only one to reach Hobart in 1946. Thus, the Jane Tate Memorial Trophy is awarded each year to the first female skipper to complete the race.

17 – In 1975, the first all-women crew sailed was the boat Barbarian, skippered by Vicky Willman. Since then up to 2021, there have been another 12 all-female entries.

18 – In 2016, top pro navigator Adrienne Cahalan became the first woman to have completed 25 Hobarts.

19 – The youngest participant was Perth yachtsman Rolly Tasker’s four-year-old daughter, whom he took along in his maxi, Siska, in the 1970s. There have been a number of teenage skippers and crew, including in 2011 the Australian and British round the world sailors Jessica Watson and Mike Perham, then 19 and 19, sailing with the youngest ever crew – ten people aged under 22.

20 – Over 50,000 crew have completed the race during its 70 years.


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