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About The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2007

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2007

Alongside the Rolex Fastnet Race and the Newport to Bermuda Race in the northern hemisphere, the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is one of the world's three big offshore classic yacht races.

Over the past 62 years, the 628 nautical mile Rolex Sydney Hobart has become an icon of Australia's summer sport, ranking in public interest with such national events as the Melbourne Cup horse race, the Davis Cup tennis and the cricket tests between Australia and England.

No yachting event in the world attracts such huge media coverage - except, of course, the America's Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race every four years or so - than does the start in Sydney Harbour on the 26th of December every year.

Over the years, the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and the organising club, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA), have had a marked influence on international ocean yacht racing. The club has influenced the world in race communications and safety at sea, maintaining the highest standards of yacht construction, rigging and stability for ocean racing yachts.

The race is widely regarded as one of the toughest tests of seamanship in the sport of sailing. Just about every year heavy weather conditions are encountered on the course as the fleet heads south in the Tasman Sea crossing eastern Bass Strait on the way. The notoriety of the race comes from its ability to offer up wild conditions with little warning, the most recent occurrence in 1998 when six sailors lost their lives in some of the most extreme conditions ever experienced at sea.

The event has been sailed every year since 1945 and this year will be the 63rd edition with a fleet that, at press time, included applications for entry from Australia, New Zealand, the U.S.A, U.K. and, for the first time ever, Mexico. The Tattersall's Cup, the overall trophy for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is awarded to the boat with the best corrected time on handicap using the IRC system, thus the vast majority of the fleet will again be eligible for overall honours in 2007 (in recent years it was calculated using the IMS system and before that, IOR).

The event also offers a Cruising division that allows boats designed more for comfort than speed to compete on their own terms. From two hours after their starting signal, Cruising entries have the right to use their engines to make way when the winds are too light to sail, to use their autopilots, and to go ashore and visit the various ports on the route. The use of engines must cease prior to the boat finishing and engine hours and miles covered under power must be logged.

As a result of an inquest into the 1998 Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, the NSW State Coroner made recommendations to the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia and Yachting Australia which have been adopted into the Yachting Australia Racing Rules of Sailing for 2005-2008.

In its Notice of Race, the CYCA requires that a boat shall complete a qualifying race of not less than 150 nautical miles in the six months preceding the start of the race and the skipper and at least half the crew of each yacht shall have completed a Category 1 race or an equivalent passage. Under the crew eligibility rules, at least 50% of the crew on board shall have completed a Yachting Australia Safety and Sea Survival Course or an approved equivalent, while at least two members on a boat shall hold a Senior First Aid Certificate or equivalent qualification, or be a practising medical practitioner.

In the lead-up to the Rolex Sydney Hobart, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia organises a number of overnight offshore coastal races as part of its seven-race Blue Water Pointscore Series The CYCA's summer of sail in Sydney begins with the prestigious Rolex Trophy One Design on the waters off Sydney Heads.

The racing for One Design classes, including Farr 40's, Sydney 38's, Sydney 32's and Mumm 30's, will begin on Friday 7 for the Farr 40's and Saturday for the remaining classes with all racing to be completed on Sunday 9 December 2007. After a three-day break, the IRC and PHS boats, including many entrants for the Rolex Sydney Hobart, will race over four days in the Rolex Trophy Rating Series.

The Rolex Trophy is a regatta for individual yachts and is a standalone series that does not include the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. In between the running of the Rolex Trophy One Design and Rating Series, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's SOLAS Big Boat Challenge for yachts ranging from 18 to 30 metres will be held on Sydney Harbour on Tuesday 11 December.

The warning signal for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race will be at 12:50 hours (Australian Eastern Daylight Saving Time) on Wednesday 26 December 2007. The start of the race will be in Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour), New South Wales.

Key years in the event's history

1945: What started out as a cruise in company to Tasmania the day after Christmas for nine boats quickly turned into a competitive race. A strong SSW gale on the second day out from Sydney scattered the fleet - all except John Illingworth's Rani (the eventual line honours and handicap winner) hove to or sought shelter at some stage. The epic stories recounted afterwards launched the event as a must do.

1977: The race started in light winds. On the second morning the fleet experienced westerly winds of 20 knots. In the afternoon it turned to SE 30-40 knots gusting, with a tough sea. Some yachts experienced winds of up to 50 knots for varying periods. By the evening, 18 boats had retired. Two days into the race an additional 15 boats had retired. The wind was SE 20 knots later on, increasing to 30-40 knots, with rough seas. At night it clocked to SW 25-35 knots. On the 29th, the wind speed eased to S-SE 12 knots backing to a light NE. Calm to light conditions plagued the back of the fleet, although some boats encountered a brief 85 knot squall on 1st January.

1980: The start was in light easterly winds that remained throughout the first afternoon. The influence of spectator craft outside Sydney Heads was the worst in years. Easterlies stayed light all the first night but slowly freshened the second day to 15-18 knots to give a fast reach down the New South Wales coast in overcast conditions. The wind slowly backed to the NE and freshened to 25 knots during the second night to give a fast ride across Bass Strait. Down the Tasmanian coast on the third day the wind stayed NE at 20 knots and a new record appeared imminent for the leaders. The wind, and hopes for a record, faded on the third night with light and variable winds and heavy rain. On the morning of the fourth day the wind slowly freshened from the south to 20-30 knots, which pushed the leaders home. The breeze slowly faded and left the smaller boats in light and variable conditions down the Tasmanian coast and across Storm Bay and up the Derwent River.

1990: High winds, fast reaching, exhausting windward work, and controversy on the dock - the 46th Sydney Hobart Yacht Race had everything but a new record. A respectable fleet of 106 yachts set sail in a good south-easterly breeze that made a fast start down the Harbour under spinnaker. The first casualties came within hours of the start, and the dropouts continued the next day as the fleet powered downwind under spinnaker, as the wind swung to the northeast, freshening to more than 30 knots, with some yachts reporting gusts of 50 knots. In Bass Strait, the maxi Rothmans ran into a vicious low. However, in the lee of the Tasmanian east coast the winds eased away and Rothman's chance of a race record disappeared. She finally crossed the finish line with an elapsed time of 2 days, 19 hours, 7 minutes and 2 seconds, the third fastest time in 46 years. However, Neither Rothman's line honours position, nor her provisional overall second place on corrected time, was to stand. The Race Committee penalised the British yacht 10% on corrected time and stripped her of the line honours award for breaching Rule 26 by flying a spinnaker with an illegal advertising logo on it. As a result Ragamuffin was awarded line honours, and first place overall went to Sagacious V.

1994: The 50th Sydney Hobart attracted a massive fleet of 371 starters from around the world to mark the Golden Jubilee of the inaugural race. Among the fleet were two yachts, Archina and Winston Churchill, which had competed in the first race, along with several original crewmembers. The wind gods looked kindly on Boxing Day, providing the 50th anniversary fleet with a spinnaker run down Sydney Harbour, without doubt the most spectacular sight ever seen for the start of a major ocean race anywhere in the world. From there, however, it was a hard slog almost all the way to Hobart. Once clear of the Heads, the fleet had to beat to windward down the NSW south coast in a freshening southeast. By the next day, the breeze had backed to the east and northeast giving the maxis and the bulk of the fleet a fast spinnaker run to and, for the leaders, across Bass Strait at potentially record-breaking speeds. However, the second half of the fleet was battered by a gale force south-westerly front, giving many crews a dramatic warning in the form of a "Bass Strait Roller", a rolling band of cloud from horizon to horizon. It was the second front with winds up to 50 knots that did most of the damage. The front put paid to a race record, with the maxis forced to reef as they made landfall on the Tasmanian east coast. Some 40 yachts sailed for shelter back to Eden. The SW gale continued as the leading maxis battled their way across Storm Bay, getting respite only in the Derwent, in the lee of Mt Wellington. The rest of the fleet continued to be battered by the southwester but there were only a couple more retirements in the latter stages. Of the 371 starters, 308 boats made it to Hobart, filling Constitution Dock and Sullivan's Cove to capacity for a grand celebration of the 50th Sydney Hobart.

1998: Tragedy struck the 1998 Sydney Hobart when the worst storm in the 54 year history of the race hit the fleet as most of the 115 yachts entered, or were already in, Bass Strait after a record-breaking dash south down the Australian east coast. The race began with a favourable current running south at 4 knots, with strengthening northerly winds of generally 25-35 knots prevailing off the coast. By early morning on December 27, an upper level jet stream and a substantial cold air mass had moved rapidly northwards over Victoria producing unseasonable snow falls on the Australian Alps in the wake of the surface cold front. In association with injection of a deep layer of cold air over Victoria, a new small-scale low begun to form and intensify over Bass Strait to the south of Wilson's Promontory. The central pressures in the rapidly intensifying low dropped rapidly to near 980 hPa. The low initially moved north eastwards but shifted to a more easterly path at a speed of 25 knots by late morning on December 27. At midday, the low passed to the south of Gabo Island, maintaining its intensity. In association with the low pressure system, west to southwest winds with mean speeds reaching storm force developed and extended over eastern Bass Strait and southern NSW coastal waters maintaining much of its intensity for 36 hours. At least 12 competing yachts reported west and south-westerly winds of up to 80 knots and seas of 15 metres, frequently to 20 metres and more, as this so-called "Bass Strait Bomb" exploded. A third of the fleet reported the average wind speed as greater than 60 knots. As one crewmember described conditions, "the sea was sheet white from the wind with white-outs coming through the gusts." Several yachts reported being rolled 180 degrees and more. Several were rolled more than once.

Of the 115 boats that started, 71 retired, 44 finishing after battling across Bass Strait under storm trysails and storm jibs, sometimes down to just the storm jib or even bare poles. In a remarkable search and rescue operation, 56 crew members were rescued by helicopters and surface vessels from nine stricken yachts or liferafts, with one man-overboard (MOB) situation. In total, 16 yachts requested some form of assistance. Seven boats were abandoned and five sank during the storm, most of them after having been rolled by the huge seas, as were most of the other yachts in difficulty. Sadly, six crew members perished at sea in the worst tragedy in the long history of the Sydney Hobart. In Hobart, those who finished the race, along with many who had been rescued and race officials, stood beside Constitution Dock for an emotional "Yachties Farewell" to those who perished at sea in the 1998 Sydney Hobart Race: Glyn Charles (Sword of Orion), Bruce Guy and Phil Skeggs (Business Post Naiad), Jim Lawler, Mike Bannister and John Dean (Winston Churchill).

2005: A change in rules in 2005 eliminated any upper speed limit, enabling boats to sail without a handicap restriction. This opened the door to a competitive fleet of canting-keeled super-maxis, and they were on hand at the start line in Sydney to challenge the course. In the end, after a bold and tactical move inshore, it was Bob Oatley's Wild Oats XI - a Reichel Pugh 98-footer that pulled off the "treble": line honours, IRC handicap overall, and a new course record of 1 day, 18 hours, 40 minutes and 10 seconds for the 628-mile course. They shattered the Volvo 60 Nokia's longstanding record by more than an hour. Wild Oats XI was only the 6th boat in the 61-year history of the race to win both line honours and handicap overall.

Historical facts from 1945 to 2006

First Race Winner (1945)

* Rani Captain: John Illingworth RN (UK)|Design: Barber 35' cutter|Line honours & handicap winner

Last Year's Winner (2006) - IRC Overall

* Love & War Skipper: Lindsay May, (NSW) |Type: S&S 47

Double Winners Line & Handicap

* Rani (GBR) –1945
* American Eagle (USA) - 1972
* Kialoa III (USA) –1977
* New Zealand (NZL) –1980
* Sovereign (NSW) - 1987
* Wild Oats XI (NSW) - 2005

Multiple Winners Line Honours

* Morna / Kurrewa IV (NSW) - 7 races
* Bumblebee IV / Ragamuffin (NSW) - 3 races
* Astor (NSW) - 3 races
* Margaret Rintoul (NSW) - 2 races
* Solo (NSW) - 2 races
* Kialoa III (USA) - 2 races
* Sayonara (USA) - 2 races
* Wild Oats XI (NSW) - 2 races

Multiple Winners Handicap (Overall)

* Freya (NSW) - 3 successive races
* Love & War (NSW) - 3 races
* Westward (TAS) - 2 races
* Siandra (NSW) - 2 races
* Solo (NSW) - 2 races
* Ausmaid (SA/VIC) - 2 races

Fastest Race (2005)

* Wild Oats XI (AUS) Bob Oatley/Mark Richards (NSW) - 1 day 18 hours 40 minutes 10 seconds. (Kialoa III (USA) held the record for 21 years, Morning Glory (GER) for three and Nokia (AUS/DEN) for five years)

Slowest Race (1945)

* Wayfarer - Peter Luke (NSW) - 11 days 6 hours 20 minutes

Historical facts from 1945 to 2006

Closest Finish

* 1982 - Condor of Bermuda beat Apollo by just seven seconds
* 2001 - 47 minutes separated the first 7 boats

Most races by any yachts

* Philip's Foote Witchdoctor - 26 races
* Mark Twain - 25 races
* Impeccable - 23 races
* Bacardi - 22 races
* Polaris of Belmont - 22 races
* Margaret Rintoul II - 21 races

Most races by any yachtsman

* John Bennetto (TAS) - 44 races
* Lou Abrahams (VIC) - 44 races
* Tony Cable (NSW) - 43 races
* Richard 'Sightie' Hammond (NSW) - 40 races
* Bernie Case (QLD) - 40 races
* Tony Ellis - 40 races

Most races by any yachtswoman

* Adrienne Cahalan (AUS) - 16 races

Record Fleets

* 371 starters in 1994 - the 50th race
* 179 starters in 1985
* 151 starters in 1984

Last Year's Fleet (2006)

* 78 starters
* 69 finishers

The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is indeed an egalitarian event, attracting yachts as small as 30-footers (9.0m) and as big as 98-footers (30m), sailed by crews who range from weekend club sailors to professionals from the America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race circuits.

The 2007 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is a classic distance ocean race open to anyone who owns a yacht that qualifies for this challenging event and which meets all the safety requirements of a Category 1 race.


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