The Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race is set to return, with tricky conditions for this year's Boxing Day start: here's how to follow the 2021 race
Sydney sailors are counting down the days – not until December 25, but the 26, for the much-anticipated return of the famous Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race.
The blue riband offshore classic was cancelled for the first time in its 76 years last winter, due to coronavirus restrictions in Australia. This year it looks set to go ahead, with another stellar 94-boat fleet that encompasses Maxis and IRC yachts, as well as a new double-handed division.
Long-range forecasts for the race suggest early southerlies at the race start on 1300hrs, Saturday, 26 December, with a chance of rain and even thunderstorms. A high pressure ridge in the early stages is likely to see winds turn more easterly, with numerous transitions setting up a tricky start to the race over the opening days of the 628-mile offshore.
No records to fall?
The 100-footers for which the Sydney-Hobart Race is so famous are still predicted to pull away, but without constant conditions there are likely to be opportunities for many smaller designs to sail to their handicap and keep themselves in contention for the overall Tattersall Cup. Correct sail selection, smooth manoeuvres, and a good reading of the changing conditions are likely to be key elements in a successful 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.
Chris Wild will be navigating aboard Seng Huang Lee’s 100-foot maxi SHK Scallywag 100. “It’s an interesting forecast, with lots of uncertainty,” he said.
“In terms of getting distance on other boats, if it’s upwind, that allows us to start to stretch out. That will allow us to put a bit of a gap on some of the smaller maxis, but I imagine it will be quite tight up front. There is uncertainty.
“There’s going to be lots of transitions that make opportunities for the other boats to come to us.”
Scallywag will be duelling for line honours with the Reichel/Pugh 100-footer BlackJack (formerly Alfa Romeo/Esimit Europa), the Juan Kouyoumdjian 100ft LawConnect (formerly InfoTrack, Speedboat/Rambler/Perpetual Loyal). Wild Oats XI is not taking part (a Farr-designed 43-footer also named Wild Oats is, not to be confused!).
Clipper Round the World Race winning skipper, and Sydney local Wendy Tuck added: “The forecast on the second day is all over the shop.
“[But day one] will definitely play out for us, especially being on a small boat. We will be able to sail to our handicap.”
Tuck is racing in the newly-established double-handed division aboard the Beneteau 34.7 Speedwell.
As in the Rolex Fastnet Race this year, the 18-boat double-handed Sydney-Hobart fleet is set to be one of the most competitive, with many professional and highly experienced sailors taking part. Unlike the Rolex Fastnet Race, however, and controversially, the double-handed crews will not be eligible for the overall IRC trophy.
How to follow the 2021 Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race
• In Australia
Sydney is expected to send off the fleet in style when the race starts at 1300hrs (local time) on Saturday, 26 December.
Spectator boats can watch the start from the eastern channel and follow the fleet down the Harbour to the Heads. Spectator boats wanting to remain in the Harbour may remain in the western side. Exclusion zones will be in place from 1200-1400.
• On television
The race start will be broadcast live via the Seven Network, through 7Mate around Australia.
Live coverage will also be webcast on the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race website, with replays available shortly after. See https://rolexsydneyhobart.com/
• On social
Follow the event on twitter for race updates and via Facebook
• On race tracker
The live race tracker will be viewable at https://rolexsydneyhobart.com/tracker
• Play along on Virtual Regatta
There is also a Virtual Regatta edition for the race, allowing you to virtually pit yourself against thousands over the same course, see https://www.virtualregatta.com/en/offshore-game/