Monday, 31 December 2018

2018 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race

Crew party, CYCA
We began our Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race spectator experience at the home of the great race, the CYCA (Cruising Yacht Club of Australia), for the crew party on Saturday 22nd December. The club was welcoming, and with a little assistance we were soon registered as members for a day and free to cruise along the jetties.

We caught up with Enterprise, our Fremantle Sailing Club entrant, and soaked up the atmosphere; race flags a flying, it was magic. We were surprised that the headline acts, the five maxi yachts (Wild Oats XI, Comanche, Black Jack, InfoTrack and Scallywag) were not moored at CYCA and were not part of the festival village. There was no encouragement to check them out at their various berthing locations either.

Me and Wild Oats XI
After the 2017 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, which saw Wild Oats XI stripped of her record breaking line honours because of an infringement with Comanche just after race start, I wrote the song “The Ghost of Wild Oats XI.” To me it seemed important for folks to know how the yacht, Wild Oats XI, felt about the race result. I knew I had to track her down and on Christmas Eve we found her hiding at Woolwich Dock, with InfoTrack and Wild Oats X. I shared a moment with her; Steve and I were the only ones there.

Scallywag takes the sterns of Comanche and InfoTrack
We contemplated our options for race day, Boxing Day, and decided that the vantage point on South Head would do very nicely. Early Boxing Day morning we were at CYCA to wish everyone well and watch the yachts depart. Then we walked up to Edgecliff Station from where we were delivered to Watsons Bay by express bus. We trudged along Camp Cove’s very narrow beach before making our way slowly up to South Head along the well defined trail. By now it was 11:30am, 90minutes before race start, shade was at a premium but it didn't matter. The five super maxis were beginning to parade up and down the harbour. They were simply magnificent, larger than life even against the TP52's.

There is no doubt there is pride at stake to be the first yacht out of the heads, and it was as exciting as a Formula 1 race watching the five maxis tack their way out of the harbour. Some found holes in the wind and others found unfavourable shifts in the winds direction. Black Jack won the battle and was the first to poke her nose out into the Tasman Sea.

South  Head
We stayed a while on South Head until the last yacht, Gun Runner, a Jarkan 9.3m sloop, had made her way around the turning mark outside Sydney Heads and was on her way south.

We kept a close eye on the tracker and the race for line honours seemed like Comanche's to lose. Then under the cover of darkness, on Friday 28th December, Wild Oats XI found her way into the lead and at 8:07am she took line honours for the 9th time in her chequered career.

Black Jack in Sydney Harbour
No sooner had Mark Richards filled the line honours cup with champagne, Second over the line, Black Jack, cast an element of doubt over the win when he reported that Wild Oats XI’s AIS (automatic identification system) was not switched on all the time in the closing stages of the race. He said they felt disadvantaged as, at times, they didn't know where she was, the direction she was heading, and how fast she was going.

Black Jack did not lodge a protest. Several hours later the race committee decided to lodge a protest against Wild Oats XI based on information reported by Black Jack's owner, Peter Harburg. This protest was dismissed by the jury who said for the protest to be valid it must be lodged by a competitor with information about the potential rule breach. Wild Oats XI got to keep her line honours victory and the media focus turned to the important task of reporting on the other competitors still to finish the race.

Race winner, Alive
Tasmanian yacht, Alive, was declared the overall winner of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race; the Reichel Pugh 66 is only the third Tasmanian yacht to win this most famous ocean race.

Watching the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race was not the only reason we came to Sydney for Christmas and New Year, but it was one of the reasons, and was it worth it? Yes.

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