The international circuit of 600nm offshore races finished in 2021, as it always does, on Boxing Day in Sydney, Australia. As if the concept of Christmas and summer aren’t foreign enough, the Sydney Hobart Race has been a feature of the holiday season now for 76 editions.
When the pandemic cancelled the 2020 race, few could have thought that COVID-19 would remain an obstacle a year later, but it was a depleted fleet of 88 boats that overcame health restriction to cross the start line for the 628nm course.
And even for those boats that started, there was uncertainty they would finish. Each crew had to be tested in advance, and not all test results were available by the start, with any yacht having a positive test required to retire. As for the weather forecast, it was immensely unkind, offering high winds and upwind work.
The daily attrition kept the scorers busy as a particularly tough first day and night at sea was more test than many could endure. Ultimately, the count came to 38 teams retired along the course, with the fully crewed teams accounting for 31 while the Two-Handed Division, with 17 entrants, had seven that failed to finish.
This was the first time for shorthanded competition, and it was with some drama how the Notice of Race restricted these entrants from claiming the race’s most prominent trophy, the Tattersall Cup for IRC corrected time honors, which was limited to full crewed teams. But still, 20% of the field remains a good showing for such a challenging year.
Sweeping overall corrected time honors among the duos was Jules Hall and Jan ‘Clogs’ Scholten on the J/99 Disko Trooper, finishing second on elapsed time in 04:14:01:42 to gather the top prizes in IRC, ORCi, and PHS.
But the spotlight is always on the 100-footers, and while the perennially dominant Oatley family and their Wild Oats XI sat out due to the pandemic, three other bigs took on the fight. While the southerly wind direction assured no records would be broken, Peter Harburg’ RP100 Black Jack captured the elapsed time victory in two days 12 hours 37 minutes 17 seconds.
As blurry was the start, the finish had equal uncertainty for corrected time honors among the full crews, with the pendulum swinging between two 52-footers, an S&S 34, and the International Jury. With Sam Haynes’ TP52 Celestial seemingly holding the trophy, the protest room decided otherwise.
Ultimately, it was Celestial’s inability to abide by the safety rules in the Sailing Instructions that earned them a time penalty, handing the Tattersall Cup to close rival Matt Allen’s Botin 52 Ichi Ban, an honor previously won by the team in 2017 and 2019.
“There’s no doubt about the competition in this race – in the 44 to 55 footers alone, it is incredible,” remarked Allen. “You wouldn’t find the competition we have in this race anywhere else in the world.”
Among the 88 total starters, 38 teams retired along the course. The fully crewed teams accounted for 31 while the 2-handed division, with 17 entrants, had seven that failed to finish.
The 628 nm Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race was 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.