Checking the newspaper as relief from housework day – and lo behold in the events section I see there’s a gorgeous yacht pic selling packages of race watching in Manly.
I go huh! – I want to check out boats, be at the harbour – perfect!
Now don’t get me wrong I’m not a tourist. I’ve seen the race from TV all my life (if I’m near a TV on 26th December) but I always took boats and harbours for granted –
Not any more, as life in Europe will do that to you.
The race in a nutshell?
In my experience … it is a real spectatorship event. It was obviously the busiest time for the whole harbour, attracting international attention. Hundreds of Aussies line the harbour shores, rocks and beaches to watch the yacht race. I doubt that anywhere else in the world can hold such spectacular views of commercial, industrial and leisure style boats in one harbour, at one point in time – consistently in a large harbour.
What surprised me was how fast at the second GONG the boats lined up, and just how beautiful and dynamic the harbour looked for 5 minutes before the third GONG to signal the start of the race.
It started in 1945, very egalitarian – meaning anyone from anywhere with any boat can compete. Indicated by the orange fluoro buoys there are actually 3 starting points around the harbour, I saw over 2 by Bradleys Head. The lookouts get very crowded by 12.30pm, full of australias people – anglo saxon aussies, swiss germans — but the actual race itself is glorious.
A simple club devoted to love of cruising, became an actual event when a British royal navy officer came by and made a suggestion for it. Not too shabby for a summer sports event which joins three other international big ones – the Melbourne Cup, the Australian Open tennis and the Boxing Day cricket test.
The sydney to hobart yacht race snowballed in 1945 to one of the most televised events today. I mean I saw 6 helicopters… the harbour is one handsome thing on boxing day. And loud.
There is heaps of experience, skill and daring needed without mention of good sails, teams, clothing and equipment to win the yacht race. And to cap it off many businesses are involved – the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania – and just to tone down the competition (although a very hot 1 day 9 hrs made by the super yachts) the website claims the participants will enjoy a welcome and a drink in Hobart, because this is one of the most dangerous sports (check out the risks of shallow, choppy water in Bass Strait) and one that does ask for a lot of experience just to complete the route.
Wiki mentions the race has accelerated innovation in yacht race, with Kiwi (New Zealand) designer Bruce Farr claiming gold for designing 15 winning yachts altogether. If I ever had a success barometer in life… baby, that would be it.
Doing the math, between years 1945- 2005, 1990 and 2000 hold the fastest records for a reason. 1999 has the first greatest record, as completing the race in 40 hours was once an impossible mark.
What won my respect during the 10 minute Wikipedia research – in front of the TV – was the trophy for whichever female skipper crosses the line first with her team – that encourages women’s participation and winning in the gruelling race.
What also gets me is the nobility of the sport… according to wiki, winners don’t get any money. The winner gets a Rolex, a trophy and the possibility to break the record. There were this year 110 competitors with Rolex as the naming rights sponsor as of 2002.
By tradition all of the crew stay at a dock in Hobart for NYE. And why wouldn’t you? The news mentioned record numbers of passengers flying to Hobart this year, among them Aussie tourists and the newly engaged checking out the region.
I have my goals for this race in 2019… and I’m excited.