Take a picnic to the harbour for the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race on Boxing Day. Best views, the story of the race, and how to track the boats.
Boxing Day: Sydney to Hobart Day
The Sydney Hobart yacht race defines boxing day in Sydney Australia.
December 26 is a public holiday. It’s seen as a lazy recovery day from the excesses of the day before. The Sydney to Hobart start on the harbour is a call to action.
And we all respond. Sydney harbour is jam-packed with spectator boats of every description.
It’s a mystery how the official race entrants ever manage to get away at all, there are so many small and large craft jostling around them.
Onshore things are about the same. People are absolutely everywhere, looking for the best vantage points, covering every nook and cranny.
So pack your picnic and head for the harbour to join in.
The Sydney to Hobart starts at 1300 (1pm) but there’ll be lots happening on the harbour all morning for the early birds.
The starting line for the boats is outside Rushcutters Bay which is more or less in the middle of the semi-circle whose two ends are the heads of the harbour. So you preferably want to be closer to the perimeters. Ideally, towards North Head (by Manly) or South Head (by Vaucluse).
About The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race
The Sydney to Hobart yacht race has been sailed every year since 1945. From 9 yachts in 1945, today over a hundred boats take part each year.
It is a handicap race over a gruelling 628 nautical miles. Line honours these days always go to one of the maxi yachts but any entrant can be the handicap winner.
Yachts range from 30 to 100 footers (9m-30.48m) and handicapping is done on length and class as well as speed.
It’s a gruelling course, considered one of the toughest in the sailing world.
The Tasman Sea and Bass Strait can go from being glassy to tumultuous with little warning. Boats have foundered and people have died in the sailing of the race.
The most tragic year in terms of sheer numbers was in 1998. Sudden extreme conditions saw 6 sailors lose their lives that year. Safety standards for competing boats have subsequently been completely overhauled.
Sydney to Hobart Race Times
The very first winner, in 1945, took 6 days, 14 hours and 22 minutes to make the crossing.
The current Sydney to Hobart race record was set in 2012 with the maxi yacht Wild Oats beating it’s own previous record to reach Hobart from Sydney after 1 day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds.
It generally takes the big yachts a couple of days to make the crossing. Smaller boats can take a week or more.
Modern technology plays a huge part in the struggle for line honours. Composite construction with carbon and manmade fibres is used in everything from the hulls to the rigging. It’s all about saving the last milligram of weight.
My brother-in-law, Mike Strong, is a yachtie and his company strongrope.com supplies this hi-tech rope to some of the Sydney to Hobart yachts. It’s unbelievably light and stronger than steel. I use it as a washing line when travelling (thanks Mike).
He also owns a classic wooden yacht and has sailed in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race several times.
His boat, Landfall, was built in 1935, the first Sparkman and Stephens yacht built outside of the USA.
Landfall finished 7th in the 1952 Sydney Hobart, her best ever line result. After 80 plus years of continuous sailing she’s still competing in her class. Go girl!
Sydney Hobart Yacht Tracker
So here’s how we keep track of Mike and his crew after they’ve left the heads.
You can track the performance of any boat in the fleet through the
Sydney Hobart Yacht Tracker on the official race website.
You can track the progress of the whole fleet, the leaders, the favourites – whatever you like. And the website has heaps of other information about the Sydney to Hobart as well.
Taking Photos of Sydney
The Sydney Hobart brings out photographers in their droves. If you’re one of them you’ll be interested in discovering the best places for taking photos.