The organizing authority for the 2021 Sydney Hobart Race is confident the 76th edition will go ahead as planned after participants snaked through Cruising Yacht Club of Australia on December 23 to undergo COVID tests.
All 928 sailors across 93 boats taking part in the 628 nm contest underwent PCR tests, 72 hours before the event start in Sydney Harbor on December 26.
Last year’s race was cancelled the week before it was due to start because of COVID-related issues, but the 2021 edition seems set to proceed despite rising case numbers.
Part of the challenge is the varying health regulations amid the Australian states, with the race starting in New South Wales and finishing in the historic port city of Hobart which is the capital of Australia’s island state of Tasmania.
“There may be some changes that occur, but I think it will be to do with additional mask wearing,” said CYCA commodore Noel Cornish. “We’ll have to wait and see how it plays out in the next three or four days.
“Yes, it’s been challenging but it’s been a thrill to overcome the challenges. The bottom line is I’m confident the race will be able to go ahead now.”
Craig Neil, owner of TP52 boat Quest, one of the fancied contenders for overall honors which she won twice before under different names, said it would be hard to have backup crew if any of his regular team tested positive for COVID.
But Cornish said replacements would be possible if they were double-vaxxed and returned a negative PCR test.
“To lose somebody now would not be a small matter, however, it’s not insurmountable,” Cornish said. “There are boats for reasons other than COVID that are not going so there are a number of crew available, capable sailors who would be able to step into these one-off roles if required.
“You could probably become very popular if you’ve got your double vax and your PCR test is negative come Boxing Day morning.”
The 628 nm Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will be the 76th edition in 2021 with a fleet of 93 boats that include three international entries. One hundred fifty seven teams set off in 2019 for the 75th edition, but since then the 2020 race was cancelled due to the pandemic and uncertainty has hovered this year.
From the start in Sydney Harbour, the fleet sails out into the Tasman Sea, down the south-east coast of mainland Australia, across Bass Strait (which divides the mainland from the island State of Tasmania), then down the east coast of Tasmania. At Tasman Island the fleet turns right into Storm Bay for the final sail up the Derwent River to the historic port city of Hobart.