A Look at the 2009 Sydney-Hobart Race
Amongst Australia’s hard-core sailors, the question isn’t whether you’re going. It’s a question of how many you’ve sailed (so far). Indeed, amongst the most hardcore of this decidedly hardcore country, the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, or “The Hobart” as it’s known, represents a serious challenge. The brochure goes something like this: Start on Boxing Day (December 26) on one of the world’s most brilliant starting lines, head out of Sydney Harbor, bang a left and keep going for some 600 miles. Then, after reaching “Tazzy”, just hang a right, sail up the Dewent River and arrive in Hobart for the best party of your life (hint: most Aussies like to drink as hard as they sail). Easy, mate.
No so quick.
First, after banging that left, you sail south through the Tasman Sea along Australia’s eastern coast, which is known for having all sorts of interesting currents and seas (think “fetch”). Then, you enter Bass Straight, a spot where the earth’s floor spikes upwards from off soundings to an average depth of roughly 165 feet. And since storms in the Southern Ocean have been traveling for thousands of open miles (there’s that nasty fetch again), seas tend to get frightfully large here. Stir in some large currents and things can get downright dangerous, as they did in the epic 1998 Hobart, when five boats sank and six lives were lost.
Still interested? While many sailors likely think twice before having a go at this race that many Australians consider to be a “proper s^&t fight”, plenty of Aussies (and internationals) wouldn’t miss this Boxing Day bash for anything. In fact, some raceboats sit mothballed all season, just waiting for the series of races that serve as a shakedown/appetizer to this long-held tradition that dates back to 1945 and featured nine starters. In 2009, 100 boats have signed up to race, including three 100-foot super-maxi’s (ICAP Leopard, Alfa Romeo, and Wild Oats; a fourth super maxi, Grant Wharington’s Etihad Stadium [formerly Wild Thing], dismasted on the delivery to Sydney and it is not known if they will be on the starting line), a handful of “standard” maxi’s, TP52’s, a Volvo Open 70, and many 30 and 40 footers. Sailors competing this year or those watching from afar can expect some amazing starting-line views (or footage, case depending) and a blisteringly fast start for the big boats.
Now, about that brochure… About the only thing that you can expect to come off “easy mate” is the party. And this by all claims is truly epic.