Hobart, Australia (December 28, 2021) – The 88 starters for the 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race knew there was an unkind forecast ahead, yet when they were hit by a southerly on the first night (December 26), it was more than many could handle.
The early conditions played a huge role in the flurry of retirements that occurred in the first two days of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 628 nautical mile race. As of 8:00am this morning, this year’s race has seen 36 retirements. There were still 52 boats racing, including 10 two-handed entries.
Adrienne Cahalan, in a crew of 16, spared a thought for those around her and particularly the crews in the Two-Handed Division.
Cahalan, highly respected by the international sailing world, is contesting her 29th Sydney Hobart, the most capped female sailor in Sydney Hobart history. She is navigator on the Hoek TC78, Oroton Drumfire, owned by Will Vicars and skippered by Phillip Neil.
“I just can’t imagine how tough it would have been that first night to have only two people dealing with all the different issues that arise,” Cahalan said this morning. “So many things happen when you get a big storm like that.
“We’ve got a crew of 16. We can allocate tasks, spread the load across 16 people. But when there’s just the two of you … you’d have to be an octopus to try and do everything that you need to do on racing boats.”
While Oroton Drumfire is a timber luxury yacht, the rough conditions made the first night a challenge for its crew and the rest behind the first third of the fleet.
“The first night was fairly furious,” Cahalan said. “A lot of boats, including ourselves, had to take stock of the situation and protect the equipment and everything on board.
“Fortunately, yesterday, the wind moderated to sort of 20 knots from the south-east; but mostly south to south-east.
Cahalan winds the clock back to 2015 when 31 boats retired, to find a Sydney Hobart as hard as this year’s 76th edition.
The 628 nm Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will be the 76th edition in 2021 with a fleet of 88 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.