Please select your home edition
Marine Resources 2017 728x90

Celebrating Christmas, the winter solstice and the 2018 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race

by David Schmidt 25 Dec 2018 06:00 PST December 25, 2018

While there's not a heck of a lot of daylight to spare in North America these days, the excellent news is that we have now rounded the critical waypoint known as the Winter Solstice, meaning that days are slowly adding precious seconds. Sure, this might be unfurling at a relative snail's pace for anyone who wants to go sailing after work, but while Christmas is an important day of giving and sharing and family and religious celebration, it also marks the start of the gift that eventually leads to shorts, t-shirts and Wednesday night racing.

If this still isn't getting you in the holiday spirit, try just inserting the word "gybe" where appropriate in Santa's favorite sentence.

And, if even this happy thinking fails to get you past fears of fruitcake, the solution lies on the antipodean side of the planet, where the annual 630 nautical mile Rolex Sydney Hobart Race is gearing up to begin at 1300 hours, local time, on December 26 (Boxing Day).

This year, five 100-footersBlack Jack, Comanche, Infotrack, Scallywag, and Wild Oats XIwill be on the starting line, giving spectators one heck of a sight as the fleet takes flight past Hornby Lighthouse and the Sydney Heads and out into the open ocean. From there, teams punch south, running along Australia's east coast for the wilds of Bass Straight, a place where the inky depths of the ocean floor rise sharply to create a stretch of water known for its honesty-inspiring wave sets.

After negotiating the bulk of Bass Straight, teams pass the Furneaux Group (including Flinders Island, Badger Island, Cape Barren Island, and Clarke Island) before the northeastern coast of Tasmania hoves into view. From there, navigators find the world-famous Pipe Organs and the River Derwent, the later of which takes teams to the finishing line off of Hobart and what I can only imagine is a rather special celebration to ring-in the New Year.

This year, a total of three boats will be flying the Stars and Stripes in the Sydney Hobart Race, namely John Murkowski's Seattle-based J/122e Joy Ride, Ron O'Hanley's Cookson 50 Privateer, and Terrence Glackin's Mills 68 Prospector. Be sure to check out the pre-race interview with Murkowski here ( to learn more about the kind of preparation and planning that goes into launching a serious Sydney Hobart campaign from half a planet away.

While weather forecasts are just that, participating teams were advised by Australia's Bureau of Meteorology of fairly gentle conditions for the race, starting with a 10-knot north-east/easterly that should rotate into a 10-15 knot northerly before building to 15-25 knots by evening on Boxing Day. Afterwards, teams can likely expect fast-paced running conditions that should hopefully carry them to Tasmania.

"It's a great forecast for a passenger. It's very pleasant," said Christian Beck, Infotrack's owner, at a press conference for line-honors contenders. "But (for) a big heavy boat like Infotrack, we really need a lot of wind, so it's a bit disappointing for us really."

Others were more upbeat. "It's a wonderful forecast for the whole fleet," said Mark Richards, skipper of Wild Oats XI at the same press conference. "It's a nor'easter the whole way - with a few little challenging transitions to get through maybe. We're still two days out. A lot of stuff can happen in between now and then. But it looks very pleasant and I think everyone will be able to enjoy their Christmas lunch."

And while this forecast is likely a relief to any sailors contending with a small case of pre-Hobart jitters, the fact that this year marks the 20th anniversary of the ill-fated 1998 race, when five yachts and six lives were tragically lost, likely helps to frame the adventurous nature of this undertaking to all participants. wishes all teams fast and fun passages to Hobart, and while we would love to see the race's elapsed-time record of 1 day, nine hours, 15 minutes and 24 seconds, set by Jim Cooney's Comanche in 2017, come tumbling down, our biggest wish is for safe and successful passage for all sailors.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt
Sail-World North American Editor

Related Articles

Famous martini
Shaken, not stirred - we're talking about the Sayonara Cup Ah huh. So that would make it shaken, not stirred. Right. Now what we are referring to is the recent running and winning of the Sayonara Cup, which we featured last week in Left Languishing. Posted on 24 Mar
Gladwell's Line: Dinghy trials...Am Cup..18fters
A scan of the Sailing scene from the past week or so - America's Cup, 18fters and Singlehanders A look at the Evaluation Trials for the Single Handed Mens and Womens Single Handed Dinghy to be used at the 2024 Olympics. What was really behind the Applications to the America's Cup Arb Panel? And a look at the Kiwi win in the JJ's in Sydney Posted on 22 Mar
Time starts drawing thin for Cup teams
While 2021 might still seem like a long way off... While the sailing world has been distracted by Caribbean regattas and the unsavory revelation that Stanford University's former sailing coach has pleaded guilty to racketeering and conspiracy charges, the 36th America's Cup is quietly hoving into view. Posted on 19 Mar
An interview with Bill Canfield on the 2019 STIR
An interview with Bill Canfield about the 2019 St. Thomas International Regatta I checked in with Bill Canfield, regatta director of the St. Thomas International Regatta (March 22-24), via email, to learn more about this classic warm-water, bright-sun regatta. Posted on 19 Mar
Left Languishing
Trophies, are somewhat different from boats. They don't tend to deteriorate quite so badly Trophies are somewhat different from boats. They don't tend to deteriorate quite so badly when they get left alone for ages. Case in point, the Sayonara Cup. It has had several periods in its life when it has been left to its own devices. Posted on 17 Mar
The sailor Made for Water
We speak to Alan Roberts Alan Roberts is a wide-ranging watersports enthusiast, offshore sailor, dinghy sailor, SUP-er and kayaker - someone who uses a diverse range of kit while out on the water. Posted on 13 Mar
A spring-cleaning that all sailors can be proud of
David Schmidt's latest North American newsletter Irrespective of one's politics, it's beyond high time that humanity curbs its appetite for single-use plastics. Posted on 12 Mar
Chris Woolsey on the 2019 Miami to Havana Race
An interview with Chris Woolsey about the 2019 Miami to Havana Race I checked in with Chris Woolsey, the race administrator and regatta chair for the 2019 Miami to Havana Race (March 13), via email, to learn more about this intriguing offshore race. Posted on 11 Mar
Nothing wrong with your eyesight
Look closely, and you'll notice it is two Black Jacks, not one superimposed over the other. Look closely, and you'll notice it is two Black Jacks, not one superimposed over the other. The upper one with the rig still in is the world famous, and ever-conquering Reichel/Pugh 100 supermaxi with the heavy bulb, and the other is the modified VO70. Posted on 10 Mar
And now for something completely different
The smallest boat but the biggest story! Over the last year or so, there have been a couple of key themes that have kept reoccurring in the articles that I have written for your reading. One is on the fascinating topic of innovation and how it has driven – and been driven by dinghy development. Posted on 7 Mar
Naiad 660x82px_SuperyachtZhik 2018 Dongfeng 728x90 BOTTOMVaikobi 2019 - Footer 3