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Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race - Hobart waits in a state of anticipation

by Peter Campbell on 27 Dec 2013
The Customs House Hotel - Rolex Sydney to Hobart 2013 Peter Campbell
Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race 2013 - The finishing line has been laid off Hobart’s history Battery Point, the race control centre is up and running at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, TasCoast Radio is on the air, the King Street marina and Elizabeth Street pier berths cleared for a massive influx of yachts, starting sometime on Saturday.

The yachties’ favourite post-race watering holes, the Customs House Hotel, the Shipwrights Arms and other pubs around Hobart’s historic waterfront of Sullivans Cove are fully stocked to cope with the influx of some 1500 thirsty sailors and their waiting friends and families.

Interstate and international media have already set up at the Rolex Media Centre in the Mawson Pavilion adjacent to Constitution Dock, the journalists looking for stories too as they wait the arrival of the first yachts,

The City of Hobart is now in a state of anticipation, as it has been at this time of the year for the past 69 years when the little yacht Rani took line honours from a fleet of nine boats in the inaugural race in 1945. Lord Mayor Damon Thomas is ready to welcome the first yacht, initially out on the Derwent and then when the yacht comes alongside the special dock outside Constitution Dock.

Almost every year since then the fleet has increased massively, the size of the line honours winning yacht has grown and grown, and the interest in the race has expanded from the local Hobartians to huge international race coverage.

There have been changes around the waterfront since last year’s race. The controversial ice skating rink has gone and across the street is an interesting replica of Mawson’s Hut at Commonwealth Bay, honouring the famous Australian Antarctic explorer. By the time the fleets arrive the Taste of Tasmania will be in full swing.

At the outer end of the Elizabeth Street Pier special berthing facilities have been made for the dozen Clipper 70 yachts. Much anticipated is the start of the next leg of their round-world race, from Hobart to Brisbane, on January 1.

They will start off Castray Esplanade, finish line for the Rolex Sydney Hobart, as their start line, sailing a short windward/leeward leg on the Derwent before heading down river to the Iron Pot and out to sea.

By Friday afternoon, with the start of the Melbourne to Hobart Races, one around the West Coast of Tasmania, the other down the East Coast, and also the National Launceston to Hobart Race, a further 47 racing yachts will have joined the 92 Sydney Hobart racers heading for Hobart, in total potentially 139 yachts to be berthed around Sullivans Cove and in Constitution Dock.

The Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania has enlisted 200 volunteers to handle the finish, under Rolex Sydney Hobart Race finish co-ordinator ‘Biddy’ Badenach. Their tasks range from manning the Castray Esplanade finish box 24 hours a day from late this evening until the last yacht finishes, probably late on New Year’s Eve.

All four ocean race fleets heading for Hobart will use the same finish line off Castray Esplanade, a constant task for the team with as many as half a dozen yachts often crossing the line within seconds of each other.

Club radio operators are already keeping a listing watch 24 hours a day on TasCoast Radio and patrol boat crews are on standby to guide the yachts to their berths once they finish.

Open from today is the RYCT information centre alongside Constitution Dock providing the public with the latest information on progress of the fleet. The centre also has an historic display from past Sydney Hobarts.

The progress of the fleet today indicates that a race record is unlikely in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, but it seems certain that the wait will be worthwhile for the thousands of Tasmanians and visitors to the State, and not the least, the race volunteers, as a daylight duel up the River Derwent on Saturday afternoon seems likely.

Just think of what it’s going to be like in late December 2014 as the 70th Sydney Hobart fleet heads for Hobart.

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