About The Race

The Weather

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Races are a long, tough slog south in consistently fresh headwinds. Read on to find out about weather conditions in Sydney Hobart Races over the years.

  • ImageWaves in the sky - A scene from the 2010 Rolex Sydney Hobart
  • ImagePretty Fly III encounters big seas on the morning of Day 4
  • ImageMaserati sailing into a storm in 2015 Rolex Sydney Hobart

1945 Weather:

Strong SSW gale on the second day out of Sydney scattered the fleet and all except Rani hove to or sought shelter. Calm later.

1946 Weather:

Light NE Winds for the first 2 days, then a 65mph sou'westerly hit the fleet in Bass Strait with seas up to 25ft.

1947 Weather:

Fleet subjected to hard 40-50 mph northerly across the Bass Strait. Some yachts trailed sea anchors or hove to; others logged 9-10 knots.

1948 Weather:

Hard running down the NSW coast with even small yachts logging 200 miles in 24 hours. Fastest race to that date.

1949 Weather:

Mainly light and variable winds, but with 40 knot northerly in Bass Strait on the third day.

1950 Weather:

Started in the teeth of a Southerly gale that blew for two and a half days. Another blow off Tasmania made it four days to windward out of five for the leaders.

1951 Weather:

Virtually a run from start to finish. All records to that date broken and Struen Marie's Corrected Time of 2-19-48-26, a record until 1962.

1952 Weather:

Light fickle winds and flat calms made luck a major factor and gave the small boats the edge. Nocturne, a 35 footer, beat much larger yachts over the line.

1953 Weather:

Started in good NE breeze. Southerly gale on second day then wind swung back to NE and NW and held to finish.

1954 Weather:

Blustering southerly at the start, moderating on the following days. Squally conditions from the North in Bass Strait. Fickle airs at the finish.

1955 Weather:

Light fickle breezes throughout the race, except for a northerly blow on the fourth day. Drifting conditions in the Derwent River.

1956 Weather:

Hard southerly blow on first night out, followed by light north east breeze to Bass Strait. A 50 mph sou'westerly across the Strait to the lee of Tasmania and a southerly gale off Storm Bay reaching a record 86 knots.

1957 Weather:

Strong westerly at the start then north-east to Cape Barren Island. Hard west winds followed and then light headwinds and calms along the Tasmanian coast. Leaders had the most breaks and Kurrewa IV set the record time for the course to that date.

1958 Weather:

Light SE breeze at the start, varying during the day, fresh nor'easter on the second day, hard SW gale across Bass Strait. Vague winds and calms along Tasman Coast, but fair wind out to sea. Fickle conditions in the Derwent River.

1959 Weather: 

Nor'easterly breeze at the start, followed by a vicious SW squall, moderating over the next four days. SW wind at 20 knots across Bass Strait, the SE breeze and calms along the Tasmanian coast. Nor'easter for the leaders to the finish, then a flat calm on the Derwent River. Next morning a SE breeze carried a large group to the finish.

1960 Weather:

Light nor'easter at the start and light favourable breezes for several days. Breezes turned south off Tasmanian coast and continued until finish.

1961 Weather:

Southerly at 20-30 knots for the first day then light nor'east winds. A line squall 70 miles long passed over the fleet in Bass Strait and was followed by a moderate sou'westerly. A nor'easterly along the Tasmanian coast and a southerly near Tasman Island altered the potential placings.

1962 Weather:

A moderate south-east wind at the start backed east then north-east and carried the fleet in record time to Tasman Island. Calms and heavy fog in Storm Bay upset many calculations.

1963 Weather:

Light northerly winds and calm patches for the first few days upset many calculations. Then a fresh south-westerly down Tasmania way, which reached 70 knots in Storm Bay, caused many retirements.

1964 Weather:

Sunny start in light NE with a force 6 southerly change first night, later backing light SE and NE. Fresh northerly across Bass Strait backing to NW down the Tasmanian Coast followed by force 7 SW in Storm Bay. Calm patches in the Derwent River.

1965 Weather:

Starting with a 10-15 knot southeast breeze, this increased to 30 knots during the afternoon. Calms and variable sea breezes followed along the NSW coast. A good 20 knot northerly helped the yachts accross Bass Strait and down to Tasman Island. Variable winds and calm patches were the order to the finish.

1966 Weather:

Light nor'easter at the start with southerly change first night out. Light and variable winds with a fresh westerly across Bass Strait. Light and variable down Tasmanian coast.

1967 Weather:

Light SE at start, fading the first night, then NE. Freshening line squall from south of Gabo Island and E to SE down the Tasmanian coast. Leaders were becalmed off Maria Island and suffered from light airs up the Derwent while the second half of the fleet had fresh NW winds down the coast and up the Derwent.

1968 Weather:

NE at start and down the coast with thunderstorms and a fresh SW second night out. SW increased to force 9 with heavy seas across Bass Strait, moderating down the Tasmanian coast and later turning northerly. Calms around TasmanIsland and the Derwent.

1969 Weather:

Light winds from ENE at the start freshened to 10-15 knots during daytime and light at night, persisted for the first two days followed on the third day by a 20 knot southerly with rain. This helped the leaders to the finishing line but the second half of the fleet was beset by light and variable winds for their final 24 hours.

1970 Weather:

Moderate to fresh NE winds for the first two days caused two yachts to lose their rudders. SW change on the morning of the third day built up to a gale that lasted over 50 hours.  This made it a big boat race and brought up a record of 14 retirements.

1971 Weather:

The fleet had light to moderate north to nor'east winds for the first 24 hours, giving them an easy run down the NSW coast. On the second day the wind came in at 20 knots from the south and as the leaders began to enter Bass Strait it began to veer to the sou'west. Finally as the bulk of the fleet approached the Tasmanian coast the wind swung round to the nor'west and freshened to 30 knots, giving the middle-of-the-fleet boats a great spinnaker reach down the coast bringing them right onto the heels of the leaders. Over the final two days, almost all the fleet encountered frustrating calms but the middle-sized yachts held their own right to the finish.

1972 Weather:

The CYCA put back the starting time to 12 noon local time to give the afternoon sea breeze time to catch up with daylight saving and the huge fleet started in a light nor'easter. The breeze was light to moderate for the first two hours of the Race giving the fleet a spinnaker run down the NSW coast. The leaders gybed off Jervis Bay and they reached down almost to Twofold Bay, until a fresh southerly came in. After few tacks off Cape Howe most of the fleet were able to sail across Bass Strait on a close fetch in the fresh sou'wester. With the wind abeam from the west and nor'west, the leaders continued to make a fast reach down the Tasmanian coast. Then without warning the leaders were hit by a fierce southerly change, gusting to more than 40 knots. But as they approached the Iron Pot, the leaders ran into a series of frustrating calms as the rest of the fleet battled a Force 7 gale off the east coast. However, as the front passed, almost all the fleet were to suffer the same frustrations as they sailed a "stop-go" course up the Derwent. The race was a long drawn out affair, as the smaller yachts had to battle headwinds down the east coast, round Tasman Island and then across Storm Bay; most of them also encountering the fickle winds of the Derwent.

1973 Weather:

The key to success in the 1973 Sydney to Hobart Race was to keep well to the east of the rhumbline and boats that did this had good breezes all the way. Generally, it was an easy race with running or fast reaching conditions throughout and the only gear-busting conditions came near the finish for the smaller yachts. The race started in a light nor'easter, swinging to the north-west and increasing to 20 knots during the night then veering to the east and southeast on the second day. Finally it backed again to the north on the third and fourth days with gusts of up to 50 knots, which hit the smaller boats with some severity, although none suffered serious damage. The fast reaching conditions enabled Helsal, Apollo and Siska all to better Ondine's previous best elapsed time.

1974 Weather:

For the first 24 hours the breezes were light and variable NE - SE. On the second afternoon and night the fleet managed to cover useful ground running with a nor'easter up to 20 knots. The morning of the 28th was SSE 15-25 knots, which faded in the afternoon. On the fourth day the fleet sailed in W and NW winds 35 to 40 knots, with some experiencing puffs of 50-60 knots and fairly high seas. Over the next two days conditions were a little easier with 10-30 knots WSW, although some yachts experienced much stronger breezes down the Tasmanian coast and around Tasman Island.

1975 Weather:

The fleet started on the last day of a SE pattern with winds ranging from 10-20 knots. A good clip was maintained in reaching conditions. On the first night the breeze swung NE, moving to NNE at 15 to 20 knots on the 27th. This remained until the evening of the 28th, when for a few hours it shifted to WNW 15-25 knots. On the 29th it was N 20-30 knots which held through the 30th when the tail-enders experienced moderate SE conditions. Thus, conditions were virtually ideal for a fast run. No less than nine yachts lifted their skirts and beat Helsal's previous record.

1976 Weather:

The start was in light NE winds of about 8 knots which freshened in the afternoon. By early evening it had turned to a 25 knot southerly which reached 40 knots during the night. On the 27th it was NE again with 5-10 knots most of the day turning to SW 5-10 knots during the night. By the next morning it was blowing 35 knots and later W 30 gusting 40 knots. By morning of the 29th 8 boats had retired and breeze was still W at 30 knots. Later in the day some boats finished, while the wind shifted to the south at 25 knots. Early on the 30th the breeze had moderated to 10 knots W while in the afternoon it moved to the SE at 15 knots. By the morning on the 31st there were 37 yachts in with the others experiencing light and variable winds. In all a record 15 boats retired in this toughest race since 1970.

1977 Weather:

The race started in light E at 5 knots turning later to NE 10 knots fading to a very light SSE overnight. On the second morning the fleet had W 20 knots with some yachts experiencing NE. It turned in the afternoon to SE 30-40 knots gusting with a short high cross sea. Some yachts experienced winds of up to 50 knots for varying periods. By the evening 18 boats had retired. By early on 28th a further 15 were out. The wind was SE 20 knots later going back to 30-40 knots, seas rough. At night it swung to SW 25-35 knots. On the 29th the wind eased to S 12 knots SE turning to a light NE. Calm-to-light conditions plagued the tail-enders although some struck a short 85 knot squall on January 1.

1978 Weather:

The race started in 12-15 knots NE with rain. The wind gradually freshened the first afternoon to 30 knots to give the yachts a fast passage past Jervis Bay. The hard running conditions were taking toll of spinnakers and gear and two boats broke booms and retired. A light sou-westerly change passed over the fleet at 2400 hrs and turned SE 10-15 knots later in the day leaving the yachts close hauled towards Gabo Island. Overnight the seven leaders put more than 80 miles on the rest of the fleet. The light westerly (5-10 knots) then took the bulk of the fleet across Bass Strait with many calm patches. The leaders continued to extend their lead. A southerly change passed through on the third night lasting only six hours. A freshening nor-easter of 15 knots took the yachts down the Tasmanian coast. It died during the night. In Storm Bay most yachts found light and variable conditions with the river producing fitful breezes. Once the leaders finished the rest of the fleet experienced frustrating calms down the Tasmanian coast and in Storm Bay.

1979 Weather:

First spinnaker start since 1967 to give all yachts a fast passage to the Heads before a 12 knot sou'easter. Outside the Heads, all yachts were close hauled and the breeze backed to the east for two hours. Late on the first afternoon a line squall passed over the fleet gusting to 35 knots. It eased during the night. After a brief calm patch the breeze filled in from the nor'east to give a quick skid across Bass Strait before a 30 knot breeze. Dawn on the third day saw yachts light running before a 10 knot nor'wester; light breezes and thick fog down the Tasmanian coast prevented the big boats taking top honours, but a freshening sea breeze brought all the little boats home to dominate the major placings.

1980 Weather:

The start was in light easterlies which remained throughout the first afternoon. The influence of spectator craft outside Sydney Heads was the worst for 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 NSW coast in overcast conditions. The wind slowly backed to the NE and freshened to 25 knots during the second night to give a fast slide across Bass Strait. Down the Tasmanian coast on the third day the wind stayed northeast 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 with 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 in the Derwent.

1981 Weather:

Strong southerly winds at the start provided a spectacular and fast spinnaker run to the Heads. The southerly increased on the first night to about 35 knots with a rough sea, which caused the majority of the retirements. The breeze moderated to ten knots over the second day and night, still from the south. Dawn the third day provided the first of many calms that plagued the fleet from Bass Strait to the finish. Most crossed Bass Strait in a 25 knot westerly that lasted only 8 hours during the night of the 28th. The leaders fought calms and light south-easters down the east coast of Tasmania and across Storm Bay to the finish, making it one of the slowest Hobarts on record. The medium raters look all set to clean up the overall results but a freshening northerly down the east Tasmanian coast and in Storm Bay saw the minimum raters fly home and into the top handicap placings.

1982 Weather:

A light air start, ENE, which remained throughout the first day and evening. Throughout the second day the breeze backed to the NE and freshened for a fast and thrilling race down the far NSW coast and into the Strait. The leaders were having an exciting battle for line honours and for a while looked like toppling the elapsed time record. The breeze remained into the second night and then died and moved into the W before the light SE change the third day. It was then slow progress down the Tasmanian east coast, still anyone's race for line and handicap honours. The morning of the fourth day the leaders rounded Tasman Island with a freshening breeze from astern that reached 40 knots NE through the afternoon. This brought the rest of the fleet flying down the Tasmanian coast. The leaders had variable airs across Storm Bay and in the River, resulting in the closest ever line honours battle with only seconds separating first and second place. The bulk of the fleet had light but steady winds to the finish.

1983 Weather:

A moderate easterly provided good close-reaching conditions to the Heads and out to the new sea mark. Thereafter the breeze swung to southeast and freshened, reaching 30 knots at times during the first 36 hours, taking its toll in retirements. With moderate seas the bulk of the fleet enjoyed hard working down to Green Cape. The breeze then freed to give fast reaching conditions across Bass Strait and becoming northerly to provide a fast run down the Tasmanian coast. At Cape Raoul, the wind went light from the south and dropped right out close inshore, which saw a number of yachts becalmed between Tasman Island and the Cape. Light conditions prevailed for the reach across the Bay and made for slow and tedious work for most yachts down the River to the finish.

1984 Weather:

A low pressure system near Melbourne on Christmas Day brought windy weather to Bass Strait and Tasmania. This system slowed up east of Bass Strait about mid-day on Boxing Day, creating two different swell patterns that combined off the NSW coast to make very treacherous seas. There race featured a spectacular spinnaker start before a 25 knot southerly that slowly strengthened throughout the first afternoon. During the first night the breeze touched 40 knots from the south and retirements came thick and fast. A strong 35 knot southerly remained during the second day with punishing seas and there were more retirements. Late on December 27th the leaders were only as far as the south coast of NSW. As the fleet approached Bass Strait the wind moved SSE but still with uncomfortable seas and winds at 30 knots making life aboard wet and uncomfortable. On the third day the breeze moved from SSE to E and after some 50 hours of windward work the fleet was able to spring sheets for a hard reach across The Strait, the breeze moderating to 20-25 knots. As the leaders approached Tasman Island the breeze had freshened from the NE to give the smaller yachts a hard run down the Tasmanian coast. The first half of the fleet had a quick trip across Storm Bay, but some of the little boats which appeared poised to win handicap honours were once again frustrated by the calms of Storm Bay and the Derwent River.

1985 Weather:

The record fleet of 179 had one of the most chaotic starts on record with numerous minor and near collisions in a 15-18 knot nor'noreaster. The first afternoon was a run before a fresh 20-25 knot nor'easter until a southerly front passed through the fleet around 9.00 pm. The southerly remained for almost 48 hours. Again it was a two-day punch into a strong southerly, much of the time in 25-30 knots, with a punishing sea (although not as severe as 1984). Retirements were many. All yachts had strong windward work from Jervis Bay to well into Bass Strait, and there was no let-up for 48 hours. As the leaders approached the NE tip of Tasmania, strong WSW winds were encountered, allowing the yachts to spring sheets. On the night of the 28th WSW winds were replaced by a pleasant 10 knot sou'easterly for the leaders, while the tailenders had strong westerlies across the Strait. The next day saw light and fitful airs down the east coast of Tasmania which were replaced by weak NE sea breezes of no more than 15 knots. All yachts had fickle airs in Storm Bay and the Derwent, with placings changing continuously and boats making agonising progress from Tasman Island to the finish.

1986 Weather:

Light nor'easter at start freshening to 25 knots. A fresh SW change went through the fleet at about 2000 hrs on the first night. This slowly backed to the south for 24 hours freshening to 35 knots, subsequently easing back through SW to West over the nex 24 hours. Light conditions prevailed at Tasman Island and up to the Derwent River. Later yachts finished with fresh sea breezes during the day which tended to die through the night.

1987 Weather:

A history-making race, with the maxi Sovereign becoming the first Australian yacht to take out the double of line honours and first on corrected time overall. The race began with a magnificent nor'easter filling in to 25 knots before a 30 knot southerly hit the fleet in Bass Strait on the second morning at sea. At that stageSovereign had averaged 10.3 knots and was ahead ofKialoa's record. However, as the southerly eased away the leaders were becalmed off the Tasmanian East Coast for five hours, before they picked up a light breeze to carry them around Tasman Island, across Bass Strait and up the Derwent. Sovereign's time was seven hours outside the race record.

1988 Weather:

The race underlined the toughness of the 630 nautical mile bash race southwards, a race that brings back every yacht and yachtsman to the common denominator of sound seamanship and stout craft in big seas and strong winds. Of the 119 starters, 38 retired, nearly half of them with broken masts or damaged rigging.

The race started in a light northerly, but 12 hours after the start a 30-40 knot southerly hit the fleet and against a 3-4 knot south-running current it kicked up boat and body-breaking seas which continued for two days and two nights. The wind died away on the third night at sea, giving the fleet light winds for the final 200 miles, with Ragamuffin's elapsed time almost 24 hours outside the record.

1989 Race and Weather:

The 1989 Nortel Sydney Hobart Race saw the introduction of the new IMS handicap category with yachts able to enter both categories if eligible. The race began in a fading 10 knot westerly with the entire fleet starting on port hand but as the leaders cleared the sea mark outside Sydney Heads, the breeze kicked in to a 20 knot nor'wester, giving the fleet a spinnaker run down the coast with a gale warning issued for strong nor'westers.  By the time Drumbeat had passed Port Kembla it had backed to the west again and during the first night to the south-west at 40 knots.

Throughout the next day the fleet two-sail reached down the NSW south coast in strong westerlies and southwesterlies of between 30 and 40 knots. Strong to gale force south-westers were howling across Bass Strait as the fleet headed into "the paddock" with several yachts suffering damage and a crew member ofBP Flying Colours, Peter Taylor, receiving fatal head injuries when a runner broke and the rig collapsed.

While the winds eased for the leaders off the Tasmanian east coast a fresh nor'easter powered in again for the one-tonners, givingUltimate Challenge andSagacious a boat-for-boat surfing ride to take the top honours on corrected time. On an historic note, the overall winner of the inaugural IMS division wasChallenge II, which in 1983 had been overall winner under IOR ratings.

Yachts were able to enter both IOR and IMS categories.

1990 Race and Weather:

High winds, fast reachers, exhausting windward work, controversy on the dock and a brilliant IOR win bySagacious V - the 46th Sydney Hobart Yacht Race had everything but a new record. In the midst of the deepening recession a respectable fleet of 106 yachts set sail in a good south easterly breeze that made a fast start down the Harbour under spinnakers.

The first casualties came within hours of the start, when two new half-tonners were dismasted and the drop-out continued the next day as the fleet powered down wind under spinnakers, as the wind swung to the nor'east, 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, which had earlier played havoc with the fleet setting sail in the races from Melbourne to Devonport and Hobart, giving them a two sail reach in 35 knot westerlies.  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 line with an elapsed time of 2 days, 19 hours, 7 minutes and 2 seconds, the third fastest time in 46 years.

However, Rothman's line honours position, nor her provisional overall second place on corrected time, was not to stand. The Race Committee penalised the British yacht 10% of placings on corrected time and stripped her of the line honours award for breaching Rule 26 (advertising) by flying a spinnaker with an illegal advertising logo on it. As a result Ragamuffin was awarded line honours, and first place overall on IOR corrected times went to Sagacious V.

1991 Race and Weather:

The Kodak Sydney Hobart Race started from the now well-established "two line start" off Shark Island in Sydney Harbour. A 15 knot nor'easter gave a good "work" to the Heads with a two mile "reach" to the offshore turning mark. The wind freshened to 20-25 knots before night fell. It eased in strength during that night but came back again from the nor'east on the morning of the second day at 15 knots and built up during the day to 25 knots.

A southerly change met the leaders of the fleet in the early evening of Friday 27th at 20 knots, thus ending the record-breaking times which were being created. This breeze continued through the third and most yachts found themselves "fetching up" on the east coast of Tasmania after a fresh work across Bass Strait. Three of the potential place getters damaged their rigs in the crossing and retired.

The leading yachts rounded Tasman Island at around 0800 hrs on Sunday 29th with the rest of the fleet back along the Tasmanian coast, sailing into a fresh south - sou'east breeze. A fading sou'easterly carried the frontrunners across Storm Bay and slowly up the Derwent River in the mid afternoon of Sunday 29th. Monday, the fourth day, saw a continuation of the light sou'easterly and as a consequence some of the smaller yachts which appeared to be set for success in their divisional placings failed to keep up their previous speeds.

Only five tailenders were still on the course come daylight on Tuesday 31st. In summary, the fleet had enjoyed a good run down the NSW coast, a fresh work across Bass Strait and a generally slower finish across Storm Bay and up the Derwent River. The retirement rate of 8% was amongst the lowest experienced in the past 15 years.

1992 Race and Weather:

The 1992 Kodak Sydney Hobart Yacht Race attracted a fleet of 110 starters, representing an increase of about 10% on the previous race. The fleet included several new state-of-the-art IMS racing yachts and the Whitbread Round The World IOR maxi New Zealand Endeavour. Hopes of a spinnaker start ended when the breeze backed from the southeast to the east shortly before the start. Again there were two starting lines and with the wind 10 knots from the east, the fleet was able to lay the turning marks at the Heads in one starboard leg.

It was a "work" to the 2-mile sea mark before the fleet turned south. Summarising, the race gave medium to fast times for the fleet and was characterised by the lack of the hard nor'east spinnaker runs or the southerly flogs, regarded as common for this race. Instead, the fleet experienced one-leg "works" with the fresh sou'westers and hard reachers with strong westerlies, interspersed with night time calms off Jervis Bay and in the Derwent.

Despite the presence in the fleet of several of the latest high-tech maximum size yachts, Kialoa's record of 17 years was safe for another year by some 5 hours (as was the $100,000 offered by Kodak for the first yacht to break the record). The low retirement rate of only 7%, the smallest for 6 years, attested to the relatively moderate conditions experienced by most yachts. The race computer digested the fleet performance and came up with an overall average windspeed of 12 knots.

1993 Race and Weather:

The 49th Kodak Sydney Hobart will be remembered as having one of the highest attrition rates in the history of the event, with only 38 yachts out of 104 starters completing the course. For the first time two yachts sank and the skipper of another spent nearly five hours in the water after being washed overboard.

Wind strengths were generally more severe than 1984, although the wave conditions appear to have been less severe. The major difference was that in the 1984 race the weather pattern abated after 36 to 48 hours whereas this year the strong to gale force winds continued throughout the four days taken by the leading yachts to complete the course. The exact cause was a low pressure complex which developed off the Australian south-east coast early on the second day of the race (December 27th), creating gale to storm force winds with some hurricane force squalls which persisted into the following day. Wind gusts were in excess of 70 knots and 10-minute average wind speeds were around 45-50 knots during the height of the event. 

Waves of up to 10 m were created as the winds blew against the southward-moving East Australia Current. At 2300 hours EDST Monday, December 27th, the low pressure complex had become dominated by one low pressure centre with a central pressure of 986hPa, the lowest over the whole event. This was the last Sydney to Hobart to have an IOR handicap category.

1994 Race and Weather:

The 50th Kodak Sydney Hobart attracted a massive fleet of 371 starters from around the world to mark the Golden Jubilee of the CYCA's inaugural race to Hobart in 1945. Among the Veteran Divisions fleet were two yachts, Archina and Winston Churchill, which had competed in the first race, along with several crew members who sailed back in 1945.

To start the huge fleet required three lines on Sydney Harbour, with the Veteran Yachts starting earlier. "Hughie" the wind god looked kindly on Boxing Day, providing the 50th 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 sou'easter. However, by the next day the breeze had backed to the east and nor'east giving the maxis and the bulk of the fleet a fast spinnaker run into and, for the leaders, across Bass Strait at potentially record-breaking speeds.

However, the second half of the fleet was battered by a galeforce SW 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 of up to 50 knots which did most of the damage. "It came fast, with an initial gust of 35 knots, then a lull, followed by the second front...at times 50 knots plus," recorded one yachtsman. The front put paid to a race record, with the maxis forced to reef down as they made landfall on the Tasmanian East Coast. Some 40 yachts ran 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 sou'wester 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 Sullivans Cove to capacity for a grand celebration of the 50th Sydney Hobart. The elapsed times of Tasmania and Brindabella were within 2 hours 25 minutes of Kialoa's 19-year-old race record and the fastest since 1975.

1995 Race and Weather:

After the record fleet for the 50th race, entries were down dramatically for the 51st race and, as the small number of retirements indicates, they had an easy, at times frustrating, sail to Hobart. The race began in a moderate nor'easter giving a windward start followed by a fast spinnaker dash down the NSW coast on the first afternoon and evening.

Overnight, the wind backed to the SW. There was some hard reaching in the south-westerly in Bass Strait, the strongest gusts reported being 43 knots. Once the fleet reached the lee of the Tasmanian east coast, the breezes were generally light and flukey. While the leaders had a record within their sights halfway across Bass Strait, their prospects died with the breeze north of Tasman Island, as did the corrected time chances of some of the grand prix IMS boats.

The overall win byTerra Firma was only the fourth by a Victorian yacht in the history of the race, while Sayonara was the first US yacht to take line honours since 1977.

1996 Race and Weather:

The Telstra Sydney Hobart began in a light northerly breeze and a strong flowing ebb tide on Sydney Harbour which saw more than 25 yachts break the start, several not returning for almost an hour. Within a few hours the fleet was hit by a southerly buster and with the wind reaching 40 knots and a steep sea building up, it soon took its toll. Among the favourites forced out were the maxi yacht Brindabella with a broken mast and IMS champion Ragamuffin with a ripped mainsail.

By next morning the southerly had abated and by early afternoon the fleet was enjoying a spinnaker sail down the NSW South Coast, with the nor'easter building as the leaders entered Bass Strait. At times Morning Glory was surfing at more than 30 knots before the northerly, her sights right on a race record. She ran into frustrating light winds and blanketing fog near Tasman Island. As she sailed slowly across Storm Bay, it was touch-and-go whether Kialoa's 21-year-old record of 2 days 14 hours 36 minutes 56 seconds would be broken.

However, a south-wester built up late in the evening of December 28th and at 0230 hours on December 29th Morning Glory was in the River Derwent, 11 miles to sail. Two-sail reaching in the 15-20 knot breeze, Morning Glory swept up the river and crossed the finish line off Battery Point, Hobart, at the historic time of 03.07.10 on the morning of Sunday, December 29th.

Her elapsed time broke Kialoa's record by a mere 29 minutes 46 seconds. Astern of the leaders, light winds and fog continued to frustrate the main bulk of the fleet, with the last yacht not finishing until the early hours of January 3rd. Morning Glory also collected Telstra's special prize of $300,000 for breaking the long standing record.

1997 Race and Weather:

The 1997 race started in a north easterly breeze which quickly pushed the fleet down the NSW South Coast. The dream ride was short lived with a brisk southerly front greeting the fleet on the first night at sea. The 30 knot plus breeze abated on the second day and backed to the easterly quadrant. The second night saw another front, this time with winds up to 40 knots. The breeze once again lightened around daybreak as a high centred itself over the Northern Tasmanian coast. This made for light and variable conditions down the NSW coast and across Bass Strait.

The two leading yachts, Brindabella and Exile, had a titanic struggle for line honours with the final accolades going to Brindabella. Any chance of a handicap win for Exile evaporated with a painfully slow trip up the Derwent River. This enabled Beau Geste and Ragamuffinto save their corrected time on the larger boats after crossing the line just seconds apart.

1998 Race and Weather:

Tragedy struck the 1998 Telstra 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 on December 26, 1998 with a favourable current running south at 4 knots, with strengthening north to north-easterly winds of generally 25-35 knots prevailing off the NSW southern coast. By early morning on December 27, an upper air 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 Wilsons Promontory. The central pressures in the rapidly intensifying low dropped rapidly to near 980 hPa. The low initially moved northeastwards 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 south west 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 crew member 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 which started, 71 retired, 44 finishing after battling across Bass Strait under storm tri-sails and storm jibs, sometimes down to a 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 their liferafts, with one man-overboard (MOB) situation. In total 16 yachts asked for 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 to Hobart Race: Glyn Charles (Sword of Orion), Bruce Guy and Phil Skeggs (Business Post Naiad), Jim Lawler, Mike Bannister and John Dean (Winston Churchill).

1999 Race and Weather:

The special Sydney Hobart Race forecast issued at 0500 hours on Sunday, December 26, 1999, read, in part: "WARNINGS: Strong wind warning for coastal waters south of Ulladulla. Route from Sydney to Jervis Bay, NE averaging 15/20 knots with gust to 30 knots. Jervis Bay to Gabo Island. NE averaging 20/30 knots with gusts to 45 knots."

The stage was set for what was to prove to be by far (19 hours in fact) the fastest race in the 55-year history of the 628 nautical mile Sydney to Hobart. The forecast winds were the most conducive for a race record since the US maxi Kialoa set a benchmark time of 2 days 14 hours 36 minutes 56 seconds in 1975. That record stood for 21 years until the German maxi Morning Glory shaved half an hour off the time, the result of advances in yacht and sail design rather than suitable weather.

The Bureau of Meteorology's forecast held true, with the fleet of 80 boats (include the superyacht Mari-Cha III, sailing as a demonstration yacht) setting record times as they swept down the New South Wales South Coast and into Bass Strait. In fact, by the time most of the fleet was into Bass Strait, the winds had risen to a steady 30 to 40 knots, with most yachts electing to drop spinnakers and pole out headsails for the dash across "the paddock".

As the leaders continued at record-breaking speeds down the Tasmanian East Coast throughout the next day and into their third night at sea, a strong south-easterly change was moving towards them, with winds reaching 35 knots, gusting to near 45 knots. The first taste of the change came as the Volvo Ocean 60, Nokia, led the maxi Brindabella up the Derwent River early on the morning December 28 to achieve a remarkable elapsed time of 1 day 19 hours 48 minutes 02 seconds for the 628 nautical mile course, a VMG of 14.39 knots. 

In all, 17 yachts, including Mari-Cha III (which finished just over an hour ahead of Nokia) and three 40-footers, broke the race record. Astern of this group, the remaining 50 or so boats sailed into a virtual brick wall as the south-easterly front built to gale force, maintaining this intensity for the next 48 hours. Many yachts showed prudent seamanship by sheltering in bays along the Tasmanian East Coast, in the lee of islands in the Furneaux Group or running for shelter in the Tamar River on the Tasmanian north coast. Of the 79 racing yachts in the fleet, 30 retired, but several resumed the race to Hobart when the gale finally abated.

2000 Race and Weather:

The 2000 Telstra Sydney Hobart Race was a long, tough slog south in consistently fresh headwinds. The winds and waves never reached dangerous levels, but there was little let up from the pounding and many spent 550 nautical miles hard on the wind. Many crews thought this was of their hardest Hobarts.

The 25-35 knot south westerlies and southerlies that lasted through most of the race were bitingly cold - there was snow falling on the Tasmanian mountains and Mt Wellington, towing behind Hobart, was receiving a dusting asNicorettecrossed Storm Bay on her way to taking line honours. The tough conditions suited the Farr 47, SAP Ausmaid, scoring her second overall IMS win. Of the 82 starters, 24 yachts (29%) retired but the damage bill was light considering the conditions.

2001 Race and Weather:

The 57th Sydney Hobart Race underlined the unique character of the event. With Sydney and the New South Wales South Coast shrouded by bushfire smoke, a near windless start on the Harbour was followed by a boat-breaking "twister" or waterspout off the South Coast, then a dramatically close finish. The 2001 Race, the first without a naming rights sponsor since the early 1970s, gained added international focus with the Volvo Ocean Race using the Sydney Hobart as part of their leg to Auckland.

However, it was the "twister" that caught international attention after it smashed into the 80-footers Nicorette and Australian Skandia Wild Thing early in the evening of the first day, wind blasts of 80 knots knocking the two maxis on the beam ends and shredding sails. Other yachts also suffered damage, including a couple of dismastings.

The rest of the race gave the fleet a hard race in tight reaching conditions and the wind died away for the leaders as they entered Storm Bay. The lead changed several times, but the first seven yachts crossing the line only 47 minutes apart, victory going to the Swedish Volvo 60, Assa Abloy, from the Swedish maxi, Nicorette.

2002 Race and Weather:

The Rolex 58th Sydney Hobart Yacht Race not only introduced a new sponsor but also made history as a result of the weather. In taking line honours, the newly launched 90-footer Alfa Romeo set the second fastest elapsed time ever by a line honours winner - 2 days 04 hours 58 minutes 52 seconds. It was also the fastest 628 nautical mile dash south by the entire fleet and one of these rare occasions when there was not a single retirement from the race at sea.

The only casualties were forced retirements of Trump Card from Queensland and Valheru from Tasmania after collisions at, and soon after, the start. Afer four tough passages in the previous four races, starting with the tragic 1998 race, the fleet of 55 that made it out through Sydney Heads had a most enjoyable race. Apart from a couple of tacks up the Derwent River for a few boats, it was straight sailing to Hobart.  

The winds came consistently out of the eastern half of the compass, from the east, south-east and north-east for almost the entire voyage, never getting above 30 knots. Not a single southerly or south-westerly front was experienced, only minimal damage was reported. For line honours winner Alfa Romeo, the breeze was exceptionally kind. Sailing well wide of the rhumbline, Alfa Romeo experienced the best of the easterly and south-easterly breezes down the New South Wales south coast, across Bass Strait and down the Tasmanian East Coast.

The crew of Quest had to wait 25 hours to confirm their Overall IMS win as the veteran little sloop, Zeus II slowly sailed up the Derwent; less than a mile from the finish line her time ran out but she finished a great second overall, 21 years after she won the race in 1981. One elapsed time record was set - the 32-footer Krakatoa achieving the fastest time ever for a boat of her size.

2003 Race and Weather:

This was an historic race for quite a number of reasons, but weatherwise it was a mixture of what can usually be expected in the Tasman Sea at mid-summer. Unfortunately, the fleet of 56 was the smallest since 1975 but this was more than compensated for by the quality of competing yachts, including two 30m LOA super maxis and several top quality boats from overseas. From a spectacular downwind start, with most of the fleet setting spinnakers on Sydney Harbour, the boats sailed to windward into light to moderate breezes down the NSW South Coast.

In Bass Strait they encountered fresh to strong south-westerly winds and rough seas but off the Tasmanian East Coast there were significant areas of very light winds for the leaders. The two super maxis, Skandia and Zana virtually match-raced all the way to Hobart with Skandia finishing a mere 14 minutes in front. This was the first time a boat with a canting keel had taken line honours and Skandia was the first Victorian yacht to take line honours others that Kurrewa IV, a Victorian/NSW entry, back in the early 1950s.

The smaller boats came home down the Tasmanian East Coast on a fresh nor'easter that saw them dominate overall results under both IMS and IRC handicap categories. The Overall winner of both IMS and IRC was First National Real Estate, a production Beneteau 40.7. The highest placed big boat on corrected time in the IMS category was the British-chartered Farr 49, Bounder, which placed 13th. In IRC, the Farr 52 Ichi Ban was the best, placing 17th overall. This race also saw the IMS category used for the last time to decide the Overall Winner for the Tattersalls Trophy.

2004 Race and Weather:

The 60th anniversary race, again sponsored by Rolex, attracted 116 starters, the largest fleet since the 50th in 1994, but it was to be a tough battle south in the Tasman Sea with only 59 boats completing the course. As George Snow (Brindabella) said after reaching Hobart: "Ninety eight was harder, but 36 hours of tough cold conditions really brought it home that this is a great race…one of the great races in the world."

For the smaller boats, it was up to 56 hours of pounding headwinds for some. For the first afternoon and evening, the fleet ran south before freshening northerly winds that reached 25 knots. Boosted by a fast running East Australian current, the leaders were inside the race record. But they "hit the brick wall" of a south-westerly change before daybreak the next morning. For the next 36 to 56 hours, depending on their size, the fleet pounded to windward into seas that reached 6-7 knots offshore on a big southerly swell as south-west to southerly winds freshened to 35-45 knots.

Unlike most southerly fronts along the Australian East Coast, which move through quickly, this one went on hour after hour, increasing steadily in intensity. Many skippers of small to medium sized boat chose to exercise prudent seamanship and seek shelter in Twofold Bay on the NSW South Coast. At one stage there were more 60 boats at anchor in the bay.  Several resumed the race; most retired.  As the maxis crossed Bass Strait, the major drama of the race unfolded with the 30-metre Skandia lost control of her canting keel.

Her crew took to the liferafts and she subsequently capsized, losing the keel and breaking the mast. Not many hours later, the other 30-metre boat, Konica Minolta retired with structural damage to the hull, leaving the newly launched 90-footer Nicorette to take line honours. Fittingly, Overall first place on corrected time under the IRC handicap system went to the British boat, Aera - the inaugural race 60 years before had also been won by a British entry, Rani.

2005 Race and Weather:

The 61st Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race saw another historic seamark in ocean racing with the new 30 metre maxi yacht Wild Oats XI taking line honours in record time and overall first place on corrected time. It was the first time any boat had achieved the triple since Rani won the inaugural race in 1945 and only the fifth time that the line honours winner had also won on handicap. 

Although Wild Oats XI broke the record with an elapsed time of 1 day 18 hours, 40 minutes and 10 seconds it was achieved in what many competitors described as 'benign' sailing conditions, certainly so when compared with the galeforce winds of 1999 when Nokia set the previous open record. Almost the entire race, at least for the front runners, was sailed in running or close reaching conditions that clearly favoured the bigger boats and, in particular, those with canting keels, when it came to calculating the IRC rating results.

The maxis and most of the other big boats sailed the entire 638 nautical miles without encountering a southerly front. The race started from two lines on Sydney Harbour in a light north-north-easterly breeze, enabling the fleet to sail to the Heads on a single fetch and then freeing sheets slightly to lay Mark Zulu, one nautical miles due east, before setting a course for Tasmania.

For the first 30 hours the fleet sailed in light and patchy breezes, with the front runners swapping the lead in close reaching and running conditions - and still behind Nokia's record-breaking positions in 1999. On the afternoon of day two, however, as the maxis led the fleet across Bass Strait, the winds picked up to about 30 knots from the north-east, ahead of a forecast west/south-westerly change. Down the Tasmanian East Coast, Wild Oats XI reached a top speed of 30 knots in 32 knots of breeze as she approached Tasman Island. A series of mishaps - a blown-out spinnaker, a broken boom vang and then a damaged mainsail - slowed her down and she finished under headsail only, but still an hour inside the record.

Smaller boats were in contention for top IRC handicap results for much of the race, despite the less favourable conditions for them across Bass Strait and down the Tasmanian East Coast. On the second morning, many of the smaller boats were hit by a strong 30-40 knot west/south-westerly change as they entered Bass Strait. The change moderated quickly, but conditions were rough and the winds unfavourable throughout the day and the following night. Nevertheless, only four boats retired from the race, three with rigging problems, the other with rudder and radio problems, and all but one boat was home by New Year's Eve.

2006 Race and Weather:

History was once again rewritten during the 62nd Rolex Sydney Hobart when Bob Oatley's Reichel/Pugh 98 Wild Oats XI, skippered by Mark Richards, took back to back line honours wins, only the sixth time in the event's 62 year history, and a third Tattersall's Cup win went to Simon Kurts' magnificent Love & War, skippered by Lindsay May.

In the week leading up to the Boxing Day start the forecast was dire with an intense low pressure system building in the Tasman Sea. By the start day more moderate winds were forecast however the fleet was warned they would collide with a nasty sea state as they approached Bass Strait.

The fleet began the 628 nautical mile journey from two start lines under sunny skies and in a gusty 25 knot sou'easter which saw the entire fleet exit Sydney Harbour in 32 minutes - some bravely hoisting spinnakers for the run down to the first turning mark - one of the fastest starts ever.

Once they rounded the sea mark, it was a two sail slog into a strong headwind and choppy seas as the 78 boat fleet set course for Tasmania.

The first night was always going to be tough and tactical with many boats heading offshore to gain maximum advantage of the current, up to 4.5 knots heading south, however this had to be offset by the bigger seas.

The nine race retirements came within the first 29 hours with the first two high profile casualties ABN AMRO ONE, which was leading Wild Oats XI at the time, and Maximus both dismasted in the early hours of day two followed by the sinking of Ray White Koomooloo after being holed falling off a large wave. A further six yachts were to retire.

By day three, as Wild Oats XI was streaking to the finish in Hobart in a southerly, seas in Bass Straight had begun to abate and the breeze had swung to the south east before finally settling into the nor'east on day four.

The southerly running current and the high pressure system which moved south east of Tasmania to generate these north easterlies over the east Tasmanian coast in the closing stages of the race delivered the smaller and older boats the top three handicap placings and by New Year's Eve, the last boat had reached Hobart.

2007 Race and weather:

Weather for the 63rd Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race was as forecast with a mostly hard running race tempered by two weakish fronts.

The race started just behind a front which blew through Sydney on Christmas Eve. The fleet got away in a soft E/NE breeze which quickly built to 25 knots through the first night ahead of a weak front which crossed the front runners early in the morning of the 27th off Gabo Island. This front was in the middle of a double centered high pressure system which kept the southerly winds behind the front weak and short lived.

As the faster boats headed south they quickly got the transition back to the SE then NE and then the building pre-frontal NW to 25-30 knots ahead of the main front which came across the course on the morning of the 29th. With the downwind speeds of the modern boats however, most 40+ foot boats got around Tasman Island on the building NW breeze before the SW/S front on the 29th.

The only heavy winds of the race for the bigger boats were all out of the NE/NW quadrant, which really advantaged the harder running yachts such as Wild Oats XI, which took its third consecutive line honours win, Ichi Ban, Rosebud, the eventual overall winner, Yendys, the TP52s and Chutzpah.

The 8-12 hour period of light going in the soft SW/S/SE on the 27th behind the first front spelled the end for race record hopes.

Just three of the 82 starters retired from the race, all within 24.5 hours of the race start.

2008 Race and Weather:

The weather for the 64th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race was dream downwind forecast for the 50ft range of yachts with the first four places on corrected time filled by the highest performing TP52's. With the overall winner Quest skippered by Bob Steel finishing in 49 hours and only 4.5 hours behind the line honors' winner Wild Oats XI, this displayed how the fleet compressed at the end with the 50ft yachts always in the breeze.

The race started in a typical north east sea breeze building during the first day and the early evening as the thermal was retreating there was good pressure and south flowing current inshore of the long port leg that the eventual overall winner utilized all of the first night.

On the 27th December the fleet encountered a weak trough of low pressure that ran SE from Victoria whilst entering Bass Strait. Once this trough was crossed the mid sized fleet was again pushed by a building NW breeze from Bass Strait to Tasman Island as a strong front linked up weakly to the trough line.

Whilst the larger maxi yachts encountered Tasman Island during the early morning of the 28th December in light breeze ahead of the front the mid sized yachts rode the front all the second evening to day break.

The afternoon and evening of the 28th heralded lighter winds for the smaller yachts who encountered another lee trough off the Tassie coast which provided soft winds south of St Helens and north of Maria Island. With a deep low forming south of tassie on the 29th December there was plenty of westerly gradient aloft and a strong SW breeze rounding Tasman Light for the smaller yachts to contend with on their way to the finish.

A fleet of 100 yachts took to the start line with 92 finishing the race.

2009 Weather & Race Wrap: Click here to read the full race wrap

Neville Crichton's Alfa Romeo from New Zealand won the protracted line honours clash of the eight super maxis in the 65th edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, ending the four-year dominance of Wild Oats XI, the race record holder from NSW owned by Bob Oatley and skippered by Mark Richards.

Alfa Romeo finished the race in 2 days 9 hours 2 minutes 10 seconds but it was a South Australian yacht Two True, a brand new Beneteau First 40, owned by orthopaedic surgeon Andrew Saies, that won the race overall. Before being declared the winner, Saies had to wait a nail-biting 24 hours and survive a protest hearing relating to an incident on Sydney Harbour at the start of the 628 nautical mile race. Once the international jury dismissed the protest, Saies' Two True was declared the overall winner.

The 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart race will be remembered by competitors as: "the most benign and mentally frustrating Hobart ever", largely due to the light to moderate winds experienced by the fleet of 100 yachts. It will also be remembered as the year the race organisers, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia extended the length overall from 98 feet (30m) to 100 feet (30.48m); and ran an ORCi division rule as a test of the rule.

A fleet of 100 yachts took to the start line with 95 finishing the race.

2010 Race and Weather:

The 66th edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race was the most physically demanding since 2004, when 56 boats retired, overcome by the conditions. The 2010 fleet withstood battering head winds and gale-force conditions down the coast and through the notorious Bass Strait.

A fleet of 87 started the 628 nautical mile race, but 69 crossed the finish line, with 18 yachts retiring, mostly bashed about by the southerly buster on the second day. Andrew Lawrence's Jazz Player was the first casualty on the first night at sea after she tore her mainsail.

Mid-southerly on the second day, Rolex photographer Carlo Borlenghi reported from a helicopter: "There are yachts with triple-reefs, some with storm headsails, and others racing bare-poles (no sails). In a decade of covering the race I've never seen seas like those."

Although all arrived in Hobart relatively unscathed, the race was not without incident. The first occurred just inside South Head shortly after the start when Grant Wharington'sWild Thingwas involved in a collision with a media boat, but suffered no visible damage. 

Ludde Ingvall's YuuZoo lost two crewmen overboard within five hours of the start, but recovered them quickly.

During the course of the southerly buster on December 27, Peter Rodgers, reported a crew with a head injury aboardShe, who was taken to Ulladulla and a waiting ambulance. He was later released from hospital.

A Dodo crewman broke his arm and was transferred to Eden and taken to hospital, while 25-race veteranBacardi, a sturdy 32 year-old Peterson 44, dropped her rig off the NSW south coast.

Commenting on the race conditionsRanencountered this time, as opposed to 2009, Zennstrom said, "I think I have now definitely seen what the race is all about.  It was tough crossing Bass Strait; 35 knots of wind and big seas. The whole experience has been fantastic."

Wild Oats XI ultimately won line honours for the fifth time after a fast ride up the Derwent. She crossed the finish line at 8.37pm in the time of two days, seven hours, 37 minutes, 20 seconds, well outside her 2005 record of 1day 18hr 40min 10sec.

South Australian Geoff Boettcher and his Secret Men's Business 3.5 crew were crowned the overall race winners and were the recipients of the Tattersall's Cup and Rolex yacht Master time-piece. Boettcher's win follows the 2009 win of fellow South Australian Andrew Saies (Two True), who disappointingly retired from this race with engine problems.

Steve Kemp Navigator of Secret Mens Business 3.5 detailed the weather conditions over the course of the race:
"On Race Day, December 26, the breeze started in the west at 12knots westerly which backed into the north west and north by mid afternoon ahead of a 25 to 30 knot south to south'easterly front up the NSW coast hitting the fleet at 5pm. Winds moderated overnight to 18 knots by midnight and then backed to true SE by day break on 27 December.

"During the morning of 27 December,  the wind was from the south and had freshened to 20-25 knots by 11am and continued to freshen throughout the day from the south  to south west, reaching 35-45 knots by mid afternoon with gusts of 45 to 50 knots in North East Bass Strait and east of Gabo Island offshore.
"Winds moderated throughout the night and were again SW to W approx 10-15knots by day break on 28 December and 5-10 knots in southern Bass Strait. Winds stayed west 5 - 15 knots throughout the day and 5 - 10 knots off the Tasmanian coast. Late on the 28th, the winds had swung back to NW at approx 15-25 knots, ahead of a weak front.

"By day break on December 29, winds were coming from the north to north west of approx. 10-12 knots off Tasmania and 10 to 15 knots in Bass Strait. Winds stayed N/NW during day, between 13 to 18 knots in Storm Bay and off Tasmanian coast; with calm winds overnight and on morning of 30th ahead of building NW/W winds before the next front due on the 31st."

Wave Sweeper, a Beneteau 40.7 owned by Morgan Rogers (NSW) had the distinction of being last yacht into port, but at least her crew made it in time to celebrate New Year, crossing the finish line shortly after 7.00pm in the time of 5 days, 6hr 8min 30sec.

Click here to read the full race wrap

2011 Race and Weather

A spellbinding Rolex Sydney Hobart boiled over when two super maxis battled for line honours all the way to Hobart and created one of the closest finishes ever - ending in shock for one and drama for the other.

Favourite for the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's yearly 628 nautical mile race, Bob Oatley's Wild Oats XI, skippered by Mark Richards, has only been beaten once before (by Alfa Romeo in 2009) and she missed out on the hoped for sixth victory this time.

Instead, the victory went to Investec Loyal, whose owner Anthony Bell had to fight a second battle in the protest room to hold onto the J.H. Illingworth Trophy.

Eighty eight yachts left Sydney Harbour in the predicted north-easterly sea breeze. Wild Oats, which had a problem with its primary winch, narrowly led Loyal out of Sydney Heads, with Peter Millard and John Honan's Lahana and Stephen Ainsworth's Loki next.

Outside the Harbour, the yachts cracked kites on a really lumpy sea, but as the fleet sailed southward, the sea state settled.
 
An enjoyable downwind ride came to an end that evening. As predicted by the Bureau of Meteorology, a 30-40 knot southerly hammered the fleet, and combined with the effects of a cyclone, caused a terrible sea state. Surprisingly, there were only three retirements by late morning the next day. Most of the 11 retirements occurred the following day.

Wild Oats XI continued to lead Investec Loyal on Day 2. Late morning she was in 15 knots at Green Cape, and stretched to an 11 nautical mile lead to 14 by lunchtime.

Lahana remained third, the British yacht Hugo Boss, skippered by single-handed world sailor Alex Thomson was fourth, and Stephen Ainsworth's Loki fifth. Bob Oatley's original ocean racer, the Farr 43 now named Wild Rose and owned by Roger Hickman was the overall leader.

The race took a dramatic turn on the second night when Loyal overtook her foe. From second place, the former Maximus avoided the hole Wild Oats XI found when the breeze lightened and oscillated between south-east and south west.

On the morning of December 28, as the leaders charged down the Tasmanian coast, Wild Oats XI regained the lead, keeping all connected with the race riveted as the line honours chase became a match race.

Both yachts ran out of wind and slowed to 2 and 3 knots. Wild Oats XI stopped and Investec Loyal, again with the benefit of hindsight, sailed around her adversary.

Bell's boat claimed line honours by 3 minutes 8 seconds, crossing the line at 19.14.18 hours, in the time of 2 days 6hrs 14mins 8sec; the fourth closest finish ever.

As Wild Oats XI crossed the line in second, Mark Richards scattered Gary Ticehurst's ashes, while Gary's wife Teresa laid a wreath from aboard another vessel. The yachting fraternity was still coming to grips with Gary's death while on assignment in his chopper last August. He was of great solace to Hobart crews over 27 years and played a significant role in the rescue of many people in the tragic 1998 race.

On Investec Loyal, the celebrations had started when Anthony Bell was handed a protest lodged against him by the Race Committee, citing RRS 41. In short, it states 'outside help'.

The protest was dismissed when the international jury could find no evidence that Investec Loyal had gained any advantage from the information.

Loki wins the race overall:
"It's the fulfilment of a dream," Ainsworth said of Loki's triumph. You enter the race every year hoping and give it your best shot every time," he said of winning on his 14th try.

"I knew the boat and crew could do it, but we also needed the right conditions and some luck. We sailed a very good race - the critical part was always going to be the Tassie coast. We looked and saw where those in front of us were and knew we were well placed.

"We got it right from the word go, and we'll be going again. We'd like to be the first boat to win the Rolex Sydney Hobart two years running," said Ainsworth, who was crowned CYCA Ocean Racer of the Year in December.

The CYCA member said his three year-old Reichel/Pugh 63 was designed "to be an ocean racing boat - and to get through a bad Hobart." Loki's highlights include winning the CYCA Blue Water Pointscore and Audi IRC Australian Championship in 2010 and breaking race records throughout two seasons.

Michael Bellingham, Ainsworth's navigator of 11 years and the Ocean Racing Navigator of the Year, gave a rundown: "We got a great start and headed out to sea in clear air - so crew morale was high.

"Lots of boats were in touch with us in Bass Strait. The 28th was a big day, because the fleet compressed a bit. The smaller boats caught up time on us and the bigger boats sailed away a bit."

As Loki reached the Tasmanian coast, Bellingham says: "We decided to gybe against a shift to get into pressure quicker. We knew the wind was there; we saw the bigger boats get it. We could see a sea breeze down to Wineglass Bay.

"At Maria Island was a south/easterly, so when we got to Wineglass, we gybed and dropped our kite and kept moving. We sailed the rhumbline course with Hugo Boss - but she went too close to shore and we didn't - we were smoking."

Bellingham and Ainsworth agreed the race was probably won on the Tasmanian coast. Winning the Tattersall's Cup has capped off Loki's many great successes and Ainsworth is now proudly wearing the reward of a new Rolex Yacht-Master timepiece, but credits his crew, which included sailing master Gordon Maguire, Bellingham and Anthony Merrington
Click here to read the full race wrap

2011 Weather from Michael Bellingham

The race started with week E-NE breeze predicted to increase from the NE up to 20 knots and then NW before a vigorous SW-S change up to 30-35 knots.
 
The NE increase was stalled because of thunderstorm activity over the land, however the clouds cleared and the day provided good running conditions until the change which hit the first yachts in the fleet around 7pm that night.
 
The wind in the change was SW then South with initial confused direction and strength up to 40 knots for around the first hour. A feature of the change was a spectacular roll cloud from the SW.
 
The breeze settled around 20-25 knots turning left to the SE with rain through most of the evening and next morning.
 
Those who approached the coast were eventually greeted by a change in direction eventually settling in the SW and once south of Gabo Island around 25-35 knots.
 
From Green Cape out into the Bass Straight the direction and strength remained the same late into the second afternoon with current assist up to 3 knots which did provide some unpleasant sea conditions.
 
The next main feature was an east Coast High in the east of Bass Straight which was different from the previous few years when the fleet had encountered the more traditional Low Pressure system.
 
A feature of this system was low cloud and light rain and winds easing to around 10 knots away from the clouds under some of the clouds there was little wind.
 
On the western edge of this system the sky was clear and the breeze turned to the North and NW up to 25-30 knots which provided spirited running conditions into the afternoon of the third day.
 
Close to the coast of Tasmania a sea breeze effect developed in the South and this enabled VMG running down to Maria Island. Those further offshore did not enjoy this effect and suffered form the lee low of Tasmania.
 
The breeze in the Far south was SE light 5-15 knots which was enough to get around the Light and then down Storm bay and up the river.
 
At 3am when we finished the wind was light 0-7 knots and did not build in any significant way for the next 36 hours.
 
During the day and night of the 4th day the yachts offshore experienced very light conditions.

2012 Race and Weather

Triple treat repeat for Wild Oats XI in Rolex Sydney Hobart

When Mark Richards and his Wild Oats XI crew burst off the start line in the 2012 Rolex Sydney Hobart, the right weather patterns for a race record and an overall win by a big boat were already destined; and Bob Oatley’s 2005 record holder was odds-on favourite.

After the shock defeat in 2011 by Anthony Bell’s Investec Loyal, Bob Oatley and his Wild Oats XI crew vowed they would come back faster than ever, their light weather performance improved by new keel winglets, a retractable bow centreboard and a new Code Zero light weather headsail.

It is impossible to know if these mechanisms helped the super maxi beat her 1 day 18hrs 40mins 10secs record, in a new time of 1 day 18hrs 23mins 12secs, as the weather was never light long enough to test the theory.

The newly renamed Ragamuffin-Loyal did take miles out of Wild Oats XI in lighter moments, but could not keep pace when winds freshened.

In the end, Wild Oats XI repeated her incredible feat of 2005, winning the treble again, but not before some anxious moments.

She took 16 minutes and 58 seconds of her old record for the 628 nautical mile course, the only yacht to twice take the treble in the history of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s race.

The only other yacht to deliver a treble was inaugural race winner, Englishman Captain John Illingworth’s Rani, in 1945.  

Wild Oats XI now boasts six line honours wins, just one short of Morna/Kurrewa IV’s record seven.  

Wild Oats XI scooped the pool, courtesy of a dream forecast in the 68th edition of the race. The Bureau of Meteorology’s (BOM) Michael Logan had told competitors it would be a big boat race if they were there for the breeze transitions.

Back to the start, drama was unfolding on Boxing Day morning. After extending the time limit for paperwork, two and a half hours before the start of the race, CYCA Commodore Howard Piggott announced that the Race Committee would not accept the entry of Wild Thing.

Then Ragamuffin-Loyal was declared OCS at the start, but the Race Committee sought redress on the yacht’s behalf, as the proper procedure for individual recall was not followed. The international jury found in favour of Ragamuffin-Loyal, so no penalty was applied.

The start itself was spectacular. A 20 knot southerly pushed the 76 yachts out of Sydney Harbour under spinnaker quickly after Colin McLachlan, the only surviving member of the crew that steered Solo to her first overall victory in 1962 (his first ever Hobart race), fired the start cannon.

Characteristically, Wild Oats XI’s skipper Mark Richards pointed the 100 footer at the pin end of the line, and with precision timing, fired, leaving Ragamuffin Loyal, Black Jack (Peter Harburg), Loki (Stephen Ainsworth) and Lahana (Peter Millard/John Honan), to give chase.

Oatley’s yacht reached the turning mark in just over six minutes, the fastest unofficial time to-date. In fact, all but Bob Steel’s 2008 overall winner, Quest, exited Sydney Harbour within 20 minutes.

Problems sorted, Quest was last out to sea, but quickly caught up fellow TP52, Tony Lyall’s Cougar II from Tasmania, which had broken the Maria Island race record in December.  

While the southerly was beneficial in the Harbour, once outside, yachties felt the brunt as they sailed straight into it, and was made worse by choppy seas and a big swell. Conditions were as predicted by the BOM, whose entire race weather forecast was sound.   

Early on the first afternoon, the breeze swung east/north-east, so the fleet to sail a reaching soldier’s course. Wind dropped from 20-22 knots to 17, but the sea was still uncomfortable, until Geoff Cropley reported late afternoon from Lahana: “Things have calmed down and we’re settling in for a long port tack.”      

Wild Oats XI led Ragamuffin-Loyal throughout the first afternoon and evening by 3-4 nautical miles, with Lahana, Ichi Ban (Matt Allen), Black Jack and Loki behind – all within a 7 mile radius.

At that stage, the 40 plus footers were sailing to their optimum in ideal conditions. Overall, Robbo Robertson’s Lunchtime Legend (Qld) led Roger Hickman’s Farr 43 Wild Rose, Geoff Boettcher’s 2010 winner, Holdens Secret Mens Business (SA) and the Beneteau 45, Peugeot-Surfrider.

Conditions changed around midnight. Geoff Cropley reported early the following morning: “The breeze went east and softened to 4-5 knots. Ragamuffin-Loyal took time out of Wild Oats XI during the lull.”

Adrienne Cahalan, Wild Oats XI’s co-navigator confirmed Cropley’s statement, adding: “We were constantly changing sails in yesterday's changing conditions. The wind gradually shifted around to the north/north-east, and built in the early hours of the morning.”

The north-easterly was at 15 knots and built to 30 knots. Cropley reported after the change: Wild Oats is now about 30 miles ahead of Lahana and Ragamuffin-Loyal is around 20 miles ahead.”

Behind its record by 27 miles, these are the conditions the leader and her cohorts were banking on; hard running across Bass Strait. It cost all some breakages and sails, but Wild Oats constantly logged 24 knots, putting her on record pace.     

Abeam of Flinders Island, she was around 10 miles ahead of her 2005 record, and had to finish before 7.40.10am on December 28 to beat it. Around 32 miles behind, Ragamuffin-Loyal was also inside the record. 

At 5.00am, Wild Oats was approximately 40 minutes behind the record, the nor’ easter replaced by a weaker westerly.

But at 7.00am, the crew’s hopes were revived as the boat picked up speed to 15 knots in a fresher breeze. Her original 8.30am ETA was upgraded to 8.00am, then 7.50, 7.36, 7.23 and 7.13 with 5 miles to go.

The breeze eased. Richards ordered a bigger sail up front, and although her pace slowed, she was fast enough to break the record. The tension aboard could be seen in every face. 

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2013 Race and Weather

Wild Oats XI equals record - Victoire a 65th birthday gift 

The 2013 Rolex Sydney Hobart will long be remembered for its 22 international entries, 15 new boats showcasing the latest in technology, stars from Olympics, America’s Cups and Volvo Ocean Races, the Clipper yachts having their first shot and the high level of competition in the 94-strong fleet.

Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI left an indelible print when Mark Richards skippered her to a seventh line honours victory at 19.07.27hrs on December 28, matching the record of the yacht originally known as Morna (from 1946 to 1948) and then Kurrewa IV (1954, 1956,1957 and 1960).

Richards said: “It’s a big deal. Wild Oats XI is the most famous yacht in Australian history I would say. To equal a record like that is amazing and something we’re very proud of.”

As a 98-footer in 2005, it broke the record and won line and overall honours, the same year winemaker Oatley launched her.

Line honours was hers again in 2006, 2007, 2008, then in 2010 as a 100 footer and 2012 when she took the treble again, in the new time of 1day 18hrs 23mins 12secs.

Waiting dockside after his yacht finished in 2days 6hrs 7mins 27secs (over 11 hours outside her record), Bob Oatley acknowledged Richards’ achievements saying: “Hallelujah Ricko, Hallelujah.” 

Wild Oats faced its toughest challenge ever. Anthony Bell’s Perpetual LOYAL (formerly Speedboat and Rambler 100), supposedly the fastest super maxi in the world, and Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin 100 (ex Investec Loyal, 2011 line honours winner) were her closest rivals.

Two VOR 70s; Jim Delegat’s Giacomo (originally Groupama 4) from New Zealand and Peter Harburg’s Black Jack (ex Telefonica), Karl Kwok’s new 80ft Beau Geste from Hong Kong and Grant Wharington’s 100ft Wild Thing made Richards and crew work hard. 

It was established before the race that Richards’ long term crew - among some of the best in the business - and the boat’s sailing record would hold their campaign in good stead.  

Wild Oats had also had its yearly injection of modifications, including a lighter mast, which had initially caused some grief, and a radical, retractable, hydrofoil-type wing to make it faster downwind.

A 15 knot sou’ easterly set the fleet on its way, spinnakers making a blaze of colour under the sun on Sydney Harbour.

The Bureau of Meteorology predicted the faster 60ft plus boats would avoid the worst of the weather and they did. In fact, vision showed crew sunbaking on Perpetual LOYAL at one stage.

Wild Oats led the race, but early on Day 2, in light downwind conditions, Bell’s boat sailed further to sea for a 15 nautical mile advantage, with Giacomo trailing her after the early leader had tracked closer to the coast and got caught in the messy slops left by storms.

Mid-morning, south of Gabo Island, Wild Oats had eaten into LOYAL’s lead. Giacomo and the newly water-ballasted and modified Ragamuffin were shadowing them. By 2pm, Richards had regained control and did not relinquish it.

But LOYAL, despite light airs not being its forte, kept the leader honest through light wind, parking lots and the stronger breeze as they closed in on Tasmania.

Reaching Storm Bay, Wild Oats XI was reefed down and carrying a small headsail averaging speeds of 12-17 knots, while Perpetual LOYAL blistered along at 28 plus knots, closing the gap by over 20 miles in three hours.  

With 22 miles to go, Wild Oats was powering at 19 plus knots in a fresh nor’ easter, then the Derwent proved kindly, the yacht averaging between 9 and 12 knots to the finish. 

“It was a really tough race, “mentally very draining,” recalled Richards, who carried Bob Oatley’s walking stick aboard, claiming it was “a bit of a charm”.

Ragamuffin was third, and Black Jack won the battle of the 70 and 80 footers, beating home Beau Geste and Giacomo (which had led the trio for much of the race), and Wild Thing. Nearly two hours later, Matt Allen’s new Carkeek 60, Ichi Ban, finished.  

Behind the big boats, it was the end of the light weather. The smaller yachts paid the penalty, as is often the case. However, it worked for them, because it left the big boats out of contention to win the Tattersall’s Cup, awarded to the overall winner.

A forecast south-westerly gale hit Bass Strait and the Tasmanian coast on cue in the early hours of December 29. The first casualty was Jim Wild’s fancied RP55, Wedgetail, with Adrienne Cahalan navigating. It was dismasted south of Tasman Island at around 4.30am.

Around the same time, James Cameron’s Hick 35, Luna Sea, lost her rudder in Bass Strait. The police vessel Van Diemen went to her aid, towing the 1998 Hobart winner (then AFR Midnight Rambler) over 100 miles to safety. As a consequence, the police crew was awarded the Rani Trophy for most meritorious performance as judged by the race committee.  

In sustained gale force conditions, with frequent gusts more than double the strength of the wind, storm sails came out of lockers. Some boats sought shelter in the lee of various parts of Tasmania until conditions abated.

Respite came early the next morning, as light sou’ west to west winds turned to the north-west and settled. As the sun rose, the wind increased to a pleasant 10 knots, but of course it did not suit some contenders.    

The battle for overall honours came down to Victoire, Veloce, Varuna, Chutzpah, Celestial, Brannew and Wild Rose; all had sailed in the top seven for half of the race.

Victoire was declared the winner after Wild Rose’s chances went by the wayside. Veloce was second and Celestial third, with an hour between each on corrected time.

Named the CYCA’s 2011 Ocean Rookie of the Year and 2012 Ocean Racing Yachtsman of the Year following victory in the Club’s Blue Water Point Score (BWPS), Darryl Hodgkinson moved up from his Beneteau 45, Victoire, to the canting keeled Cookson 50 (ex Jazz) in 2013 – “A 65th birthday present to myself,” he said.

Nobody before Hodgkinson has ever won this trio of accolades in a three year period.

The Double Bay plastic surgeon also won ORCi, finished second overall in the BWPS, in which he also won the new line honours trophy attached to the series - and was a member of the winning Southern Cross Cup team.

Never did the perfectionist ‘Dr Darryl’ think he would win the Tattersall’s Cup and the accompanying Rolex timepiece. “I thought it would be at least a two year program,” he said after winning the 628nm race.

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2014 Weather 

The BOM was pretty spot on with its pre-race weather briefing just prior to the start of the 70th edition of the great race south, the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

With a record number of entrants, boats competed fiercely at the starting line for that small tactical advantage that could mean so much by the time they cross the finish line in Hobart. Spinnakers competed with Code zeros in an amazingly quick run-down the Harbour in a fresh southerly that must have as been thrilling for spectators as it was for the nerves of the crews scrambling on deck.

Once past the turning marks outside the heads, the fleet spread out as crews tried to settle in for an uncomfortable afternoon and evening with a very chopped up seaway. The SE breeze freshened to 25+ knots against a strong running EAC. Retirements due to damage came fairly quickly during the radio position schedules.

As the distance between the fleet extended, the bigger boats had very light conditions for a long period of time when south of Green Cape and the mid-sized boats were also becalmed back near Montague Island.

While the conditions were light along the east coast of NSW for most of the second day, later in the evening the smaller boats did start to pick up some northerly wind which slowly filled in across the fleet.

The conditions were lighter than expected in Bass Strait and the mid-fleet spent much of the day searching for extra pressure in and around Gabo Island. Meanwhile the smaller boats were gaining extra northerly pressure which increased steadily throughout the second night and third morning.

For the back end of the fleet, the breeze began to build from the north and there was almost champagne sailing helped by 2-3 knots of southerly current that ran to the top of Flinders Island - although well offshore. Trying to hold spinnakers down the coast of Tasmania became increasingly difficult as the breeze continued to build to fresh to frightening for the smaller boats. The mid-sized boats had enjoyed some fast running conditions near the bottom end of the race course while the larger boats had light winds across Storm Bay.

The final leg across Storm Bay and the Derwent was perhaps the most challenging for many competitors. Radios reported winds in excess of 50 knots and the mid-fleet experienced everything from 0-50+ knots from all directions of the compass other than the predicted westerly.

Generally the 2014 RSHYR was a very complex race with regard to weather. It certainly had a slow middle and fresh following winds down the Tasmanian coast. These conditions may well have assisted Wild Rose being a smaller boat and Chutzpah being a fast running mid-sized boat.

Jenifer Wells on Wild Rose

2015 Weather

The 71st Rolex Sydney to Hobart started in the predicted NorthEasterly breeze of 15-20 knots. The work up the harbour proved challenging for many. A match race between Wild Oats and Comanche let Loyal lead to the first mark, though she was soon overtaken by Comanche on the tight reach to the sea mark. The upwind work in tight traffic resulted in several race-ending collisions amongst the rest of the fleet.

Kites were set at the sea mark and the fleet charged South in a 20+ knot North Easter. Loyal eventually resolved their code zero issues and overtook all of the small boat traffic. As the afternoon progressed, the weather became affected by the approaching pre-frontal trough – extensive thunderstorms developed inland and the build up towards the Southerly began.

The first decision for most of the fleet came near 5pm as the wind started to move left towards the North West. Routing was suggesting for many that heading offshore would bring better current and pressure, though would experience the full force of the oncoming front. Many division 0 and 1 boats went offshore, some – including Balance used the opportunity to gybe towards the coast and slightly more shelter.

The front arrived in the dark, so no ominous roll cloud appeared. Its imminent arrival was noted when the front runners slowed down to 5 knots. On Balance we ran towards the front with a full mast-head kite, 2 very well made reefs in the main and a #4 headsail hoisted instead of a staysaIl. The kite came down as the front arrived and all crew were on the rail.

The Southerly front built to 30 knots with gusts to the mid or high 30s. A long, noisy and wet night was had by many as the boats moved down the coast. For others, they were caught up in boat damage that lead to the retirement of many boats. A disappointing, but drier run home to Sydney for them.

Southerly conditions persisted for the majority of the NSW coast – S-SSE offshore, S-SW inshore – and much of the way to Tasmania. Balance stayed close to the coast in the right hand breeze, and made good progress to Gabo by dusk on day 2, and then into the passage past Bass Strait.

By dawn the remaining competitors faced lighter conditions that allowed time to recover and repair from the previous 36 hours. Afternoon breeze along the Tasmania coast division 1 and 2 boats to make good progress South, whilst the smaller fleet was caught in more variable conditions.

As the boats moved South, they moved towards the second cold front moved towards the fleet – only Comanche was around Tasman Island in time to miss this. The arriving SW front came to the division 1 and 2 boats on the lower coast of Tasmania in the earlier hours of the 29th. Mid-size boats were sheltered by the lee effect of the Tasmanian mountains, whilst those at the back received the change as a Westerly.

The boats offshore in Southern Tasmanian waters faced a long and cold morning working straight upwind to Tasman Island in 25 knots. The boats that broke with tradition and chose to set up for the change closer to the coast were able to head South parallel to the coast on a tight reach in what was a lighter WSW breeze.

For Balance, noon on the 29th brought us towards Tasman Island, where several boats were close to becalmed on the Western side. A slow, scenic beat towards Cape Raoul ensured. Once past Raoul, the SW reasserted itself and quick progress was made across Storm Bay, and then stayed in as a 15 knot WSW for a very fast run up the river.

For the smaller boats offshore, the breeze stayed in the South overnight, and then through the day on the 30th changes quickly to a building Northerly, rocketing the fleet down the coast of Tasmania and then across Storm Bay and up the River Derwent in good pressure. Between 2pm and 11pm on the 30th, 40 boats – more than half of the remaining fleet – finished in a flurry of welcomes and cheers from the Taste and dockside.

For Balance, having won our division on handicap, it was a tense, but seemingly hopeless wait in Hobart as strong afternoon breezes caused havoc in the harbour and surrounds. The luck of Storm Bay and the River Derwent was a disappointment for our handicap competitor Quicpoint Azzurro as the conditions first moderated, and then glassed out as the evening progressed.

The river effectively shutdown from 10 pm till 5am except for 2 finishers. Dawn saw the breeze return and 22 boats finish with a few hours – the very last boat Myuna III in by 9am. Fellow division 4 boat Courier Leon managed to slip into second overall, while Quickpoint Azzurro settled for third. 

Handicap favoured the fast boats and the slow boats. Rush, the leading boat in Division 2, came in in 23rd spot.

The key to winning division 1 came in 6 parts. Boat preparation and planning on the day had us very ready for the first cold front. Staying close to the NSW coast had better conditions and breeze angle than those offshore. Having enough materials on board to repair damage to boat and sails. Closing in on the lower Tasmanian coast once the second southerly arrived and inshore tight reaching, rather than offshore and beating  to Tasman island. Getting to Tasman Island in the middle of the day. A fantastically fast run from Cape Raoul to the finish.

The key to winning overall? The weather systems put division 1 and 4 in contention. the smaller boats who looked likely to beat us for overall honours encountered the Derwent at night. Here the weather played a critical role with the Derwent breeze shutting down to effectively zero, two nights in a row.

Nick Scott-Perry on Balance

2016 Weather 

The 72nd edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race started in a 15-20 knot north easterly sea breeze, giving competitors a jump on the 2012 race record set by Wild Oats XI, as more than one third of the fleet was ahead of the record after the first night of racing.

Three yachts finished in record time; Perpetual Loyal took line honours followed two hours later by Giacomo in second and Scallywag in third. However, the fast paced race did not hold in for the majority of the fleet, as the yachts trickled into the dock in the following days after spending much too long on the Derwent River when the wind shut down for days on end.

On Giacomo, we sailed our race following the forecasts and routing made before the start.

The synoptic forecast showed two high pressure systems in place. The first one was quite steady, in between the Australian east coast and the North Island of New Zealand, and the second was to the south west of Tasmania, moving from the west to the north-east eventually ending up with the two combined during the night of 27 December.

These combined with the low pressure systems to the south of New Zealand, and over central Australia, showed us a trough located between Sydney and Cape Howe. This trough was forecast to bring rain and light winds and the timing and depth of this trough, we believe, would end up being the most critical part of the race from the strategic point of view.

At the start, the synoptic winds were about 15-20 knots from the north-east, and as soon as we were out of Sydney Harbour, the wind would increase to 25 knots for the first few hours after the start. We then saw a drop in wind speed, as predicted for the first night. We expected this transition to take longer than the initial routing said, as the low resolution models generally underestimated the significance of wind holes.

At that time, our main goal was to sail a reaching angle as soon as possible, due to the new 15-25 knot easterly winds on the other side of the trough. This moved slowly back to the north and took us down to Hobart.

The predicted forecast turned out to be what we had on the course, better to be lucky than good!

On the sail down to Tasman Island, we played on the eastern side of the rhumbline to get the double advantage of avoiding the light winds to windward of Tasmania, and to stay on the right side of the expected wind shift.

Once we turned at Tasman Island, we were quite lucky to arrive in Hobart just as the wind began to drop dramatically, where the other big and mid-sized boats got stuck from Tasman Island up the Derwent River to Hobart.

For the whole race, the crew did an unbelievable job at always keeping the boat fast and efficient, constantly changing the boat's setup and sails with perfect knowledge and timing. This, was no doubt, our strongest weapon!

Francesco Mongelli on Giacomo