Despite the light easterly breeze of around 5 to 10 knots for the start of the 78th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, the experience was anything but sedate for the 103 boats lined up in Sydney Harbour.
Everyone on the water, including the traditional throng of thousands of spectators on hundreds of boats, was treated to a rotating succession of sunshine, heavy showers and rumbling thunder. An intense swell and confused sea state added further drama to the scene as competitors raced to be first out of the infamous Sydney Heads.
The four 100-foot maxi yachts tipped to be favourites for line honours chose different sides of the course as they set off on their epic 628- nautical mile journey, with Law Connect and Andoo Comanche plumping for the right while SHK Scallywag and Wild Thing 100 took to the left. The biggest decision, however, for all of the crews, professional and Corinthian alike, would be made once out on open water - whether to head south along the coast or go east to attempt to get around the worst of the trough currently sitting over the New South Wales coast. Several hours into racing, Andoo Comanche and Law Connect were battling it out at the front of the fleet.
In a legendary contest where nothing can ever be taken for granted, a particularly uncertain forecast promising storms, erratic winds and even hail, means that the ability to understand and adapt to the evolving weather systems will be crucial to lifting both Line Honours and the Tattersall Cup, awarded to the overall winner on handicap.
Organised by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia in conjunction with the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, Rolex has been partnering the iconic Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race since 2002. Now in its 78th edition, the annual event is internationally renowned as one of the most arduous rites of passage in offshore sailing, and is a cornerstone of the Swiss watchmaker’s elite yachting partnerships.