Maxis jockey for position at the start in Sydney Harbour. Photo: Carlo Borlenghi / Rolex

The Rolex Sydney Hobart race is one of the most famous yacht races in the world hosted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia in conjunction with the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania starting in Sydney, New South Wales, on Boxing Day and finishing in Hobart, Tasmania.

The Sydney Hobart is considered one of the big 600 milers and is a key offshore race in the calendar for any number of big boat campaigns, sitting alongside other races of a similar length including the Fastnet Race, The Caribbean 600 and the Middle Sea Race.

The inaugural edition of the 630 nautical mile race in 1945 had nine starters. John Illingworth’s Rani, built at Speers Point was the winner, taking six days, 14 hours and 22 minutes.

Records fell for many years in the early days of the race, but in 1975 Kialoa from the United States set a new course record that would stand for fully 21 years before being beaten by the German yacht Morning Glory in 1996, and then only by a dramatic 29 minutes.

The race record now stands at 1 day 9 hours 15 minutes and 24 seconds and was set by the 100ft super-maxi Comanche in 2017.

Comanche is one of only a handful of yachts to have taken line honours in the race on multiple occasions, having now crossed the finish line into Hobart first on three separate occasions.

But the boat most associated with race wins is another super-maxi, Wild Oats XI which has won the race a hugely impressive nine times, including a four race winning streak between 2004-2008.

The Sydney Hobart is renowned for tough weather, with the Bass Strait, and the waters of the Pacific Ocean immediately to its east often experiencing high winds and difficult seas.

Even though the race is held in the Australian summer, southerly buster storms often make the it cold, bumpy, and very challenging for the crew. It is typical for a considerable number of yachts to retire, often at Eden on the New South Wales south coast, the last sheltered harbour before Flinders Island.

The 1998 Sydney Hobart was marred by tragedy when, during an exceptionally strong storm (which had similar strength winds to a lower-category hurricane), five boats sank and six people died.

Of the 115 boats that started, only 44 made it to Hobart. As a result, the crew eligibility rules were tightened, requiring a higher minimum age and experience.

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