Sydney–Hobart Yacht Race

The Sydney–Hobart Yacht Race, arguably the world's greatest ocean race, began when Jack Earl, a marine artist, planned a cruise from Sydney to Hobart on the family ketch, leaving on Boxing Day, 1945. Friends decided to make a race of it, and eventually nine yachts took part. The winner of both handicap and line honours, John Illingworth's Rani, took 6 days, 14 hours, 22 minutes, while Peter Luke's Wayfarer still holds the record for the slowest time: 11 days, 6 hours, 20 minutes. Nokia's 1999 journey was the fastest – 1 day, 19 hours, 48 minutes.

The fleet has averaged eighty yachts, with a record 371 yachts for the race's fiftieth anniversary in 1994. Visitors throng Constitution Dock in Hobart to see the entrants, which range in size from the tiny Klinger, 8.23 metres long, to super high-tech maxis that dominate the quest for Line Honours. The closest finish was in 1982 when Condor of Bermuda beat Apollo across the line by seven seconds.

Not all yachts make the finish, and rough weather can cause many withdrawals. In 1993, only 38 yachts finished out of 110 starters. A total of nine sailors have drowned, with the worst year by far 1998, when in exceptionally rough weather, six sailors died. But there are sailors for whom the Sydney-Hobart is an integral part of their life. Sixty yachtsmen have sailed in 25 or more races. Tasmanian John Bennetto holds the record of 43 races, finishing in eighteen consecutive races as owner/skipper of Mirrabooka.

Further reading: M Ludeke, Sydney to Hobart yacht race 1945–2001, Sandy Bay, 2002;, articles by Peter Campbell.

Greg Peart