As the then Governor of Tasmania, Sir Guy Green, observed at the prizegiving for the 2001 race, it is indeed an egalitarian event, attracting yachts as small as 30-footers and as big as 100-footers, sailed by crews who range from weekend club sailors to professionals from the America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race circuits.

  • Landfall in it's original form - it has never been rebuilt Landfall in it's original form - it has never been rebuilt
  • Giacomo powering to take the overall win in 2016 Rolex Sydney Hobart Giacomo powering to take the overall win in 2016 Rolex Sydney Hobart
  • CQS laying over on Sydney Harbour CQS laying over on Sydney Harbour

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

In the earliest years of the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, all the yachts were built from timber - heavy displacement cutters, sloops, yawls, schooners and ketches designed more for cruising than racing.

The increasing popularity of the 628 nautical Christmas-New Year sail south to Hobart quickly began to attract new designs and innovative ideas in boat-building, sails and rigs…dacron sails and aluminium masts and in the early 1950s, the first boats built of GRP (glass reinforced plastic) or fibreglass as is the more common phrase.  Then came aluminium, steel (mostly home-built) and even one maxi yacht built of ferro cement.

Innovative Australian yacht designers such as the Halvorsen brothers, Trygve and Magnus, and the late Allan Payne and Bob Miller (Ben Lexcen) produced faster boats and the race was on to create line and overall handicap winners. Prof. Peter Joubert, a part-time designer of stout cruiser/racers, and John King were other Australians who produced winning boats.

Following in their wake are currently successful designers such as Iain Murray and his partners, Andy Dovell and Ian "Fresh" Burns, along with Scott Jutson, David Lyons and Robert Hick.

New Zealander Bruce Farr, now based on the US, led the move towards light displacement yachts and is by far the most successful designer of Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race overall winners under different international handicap systems, first IOR (International Offshore Rule), then IMS (International Measurement System), and now IRC.

The space age has had a significant spin-off for yacht racing, first in the America's Cup and then in the design and construction of ocean racing yachts, introducing composite construction of boat hulls, using Kelvar and other manmade fibres in moulding the hulls in high-tech ovens.

In the past few years carbon fibre has been used successfully to build yacht hulls, masts and spars and in the construction of working sails (mainsails and genoas/jibs). The multiple line honours winner Wild Oats XI is the latest example of almost total use of carbon fibre in its hull, mast, boom and working sails.

The fleet in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is virtually all sloops (mainsail and one foresail genoa or jibs) but several of the maxi yachts with a big fore-triangle (between the foredeck, the forestay and the mast) are successfully using two headsails on close reaching races, theoretically making them cutters.

At the small end of the 2016 fleet, Sean Langman's Maluka of Kermandie was the oldest and smallest yacht to compete, and Michael Strong’s pretty wood S&S design No. 54, Landfall, the second oldest. Landfall is the first S&S built outside the USA - by Percy Coverdale at Battery Point in Tasmania. In her other Hobarts, she finished seventh in 1952, retired in 1954, and at age 40, finished 52nd in 1976. Landfall returned to the race after a long absence to celebrate her 80th birthday in the 70th Hobart in 2014, but retired with sail damage, and again in 2015 retired with hull damage. 

2016 Overall Winner, Giacomo (NZL), is a true to form Volvo 70. Formerly Groupama 4, winner of the 2011-2012 VOR, Jim Delegat bought her in 2013. Delegat and his crew spent the 2016 summer season away in Sydney in an attempt to top the board in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, following his 2013 and 2014 campaigns, in which he finished sixth on line and 22nd overall to Black Jack’s fourth, and 36th overall - and dismasting off the Tasmanian coast in 2014. 

One of the most innovative and uniquely designed yachts the race has ever seen is Ludde Ingvall’s old 90ft maxi Nicorette, made over as a 100ft super maxi, CQS, which was launched in November 2016 in New Zealand where she was rebuilt. Working with a top technical team including yacht designers, engineers, yacht builders, rig designers and sail makers, he produced a boat that pushes the boundaries. The distinctive new hull shape features a reverse bow, an outsized bowsprit, ‘wings’ to spread the shroud base supporting the mast and a wide platform across the cockpit area. With such a short lead time to the 2016 Rolex Sydney Hobart, the capabilities of the boat weren't able to be reached in the race, including some damage to the hydrofoils, resulting in seventh on line. 

100ft super maxi Perpetual LOYAL, smashed the race record set by Wild Oats XI in 2012 by almost five hours, to stand at one day 13 hours 31 minutes and 20 seconds. Perpetual LOYAL is the former Speedboat and Rambler, and was slated ‘the fastest super maxi in the world’, and has now proved it in Australia. After retiring from both the 2014 and 2015 Rolex Sydney Hobarts, she underwent some technical developments, which paid off in the return of line honours and race record. 

The wide downwind racer, Jim Cooney & Samantha Grant's LDV Comanche then came back in 2017 to show her prowess and carve nearly seven hours off the previous record. This set the new record to 1 day 9 hours 15 minutes and 24 seconds.

Divisions in the Rolex Sydney Hobart

There are many divisions in the race, which are dependent on a variety of factors; boat measurements such as weight, length and age, rig size, sail area, and any performance modifications on the boat. Here's a run down:


IRC is a time correction rating system used extensively in yacht racing around the world. Under this system, a yacht’s finishing time (elapsed time from start to finish) is multiplied by its IRC rating number to determine a corrected time. A boat’s rating is calculated by an independent body (RORC), using measurements of the boat; the length, weight, draft, rig size, sail area, and specific characteristics and features.

The resulting time corrector, or the boat’s ‘TCC’, is her handicap. The higher the TCC figure, the faster the boat's potential speed. When the last boat arrives in Hobart, the corrected times of every boat in IRC fleet will be compared and the one with the lowest time after correction will be declared the overall winner. In theory at least, this system ensures that any well-sailed boat, regardless of its age or level of technology, can win. 


Seen by its advocates among grand prix yacht owners as a more transparent rule and a truer reflection of a boat’s performance based on the old IMS system, ORCi is the other rating handicap system used in the Rolex Sydney Hobart. 

ORC Rating Systems use science and technology to develop its handicap systems. With a complete set of measurements of the hull, stability, rig and sails, it is then possible to use computer software, known as Velocity Prediction Program, to calculate the theoretical speeds for the boat in various wind conditions. This way, ORCi can tell you the performance differences between different boats in different wind conditions and course geometries.

Results for ORCi are decided by the application of the Time-on-Time Simplified Scoring System as a multiplier of elapsed time. The boat with the lowest corrected time (after application of scoring penalties, if any) will be scored first in each division.


PHS is a performance-based handicap system, with yachts being allocated a performance or arbitrary handicap. PHS division strives to give all entrants a chance of winning, provided they sail reasonably well. This is not a boat measurement based handicap, but is based on the "performance" of a particular boat. The Handicap for each race is mathematically calculated using data from all previous races. 

Results will be calculated by the application of Time Correction Factors (TCFs) as a multiplier of elapsed time. Yachts entering the IRC or ORCi handicap categories may not enter the PHS category.


A Verteran entrant is a yacht which is competing under the IRC rating system and was build prior to 1994. These entrants can also be entered in to the Overall IRC category to compete against all other yachts.

Grand Veteran

A Grand Verteran entrant is a yacht which is competing under the IRC rating system and was build prior to 1976. These entrants can also be entered in to the Overall IRC category and the Veterans category.

Corinthian Division

A Corinthian is an amatuer sailor, a Group 1, non-professional as classified by World Sailing. It states: A competitor who takes part in racing, only as a pastime, is a Group 1 competitor.

Results for the Corinthian division, are calculated by the application of PHS Time Correction Factors (TCF's) as a multiplier of elapsed time. A boat's TCF will be determined by the Race Committee or its nominee. The boat with the lowest corrected time (after application of scoring penalties, if any) will be scored first.

Cruising Division

The Cruising Division is scored on a points system. 

Prior to 9am on Race Day, a boat in the Cruising Division may nominate their predicted dates and times at which they will pass through the latitudes 36°S, 38°S, 40°S and 42°S, and when they will finish.

For example, a boat receives 20 points for first passing through the specified latitude or finishing within 1 hour of its nominated date and time, 10 points for doing so between one and two hours of its nominated date and time etc.

Points will also be awarded or deducted based on engine and autopilot usage during the race. The boat with the highest number of points (after application of scoring penalties, if any) shall be scored first.