Tasmania is renowned for its pristine wilderness, sweeping beaches and dramatic coastal cliffs plunging into cobalt blue seas. The waterfront capital Hobart is popular with sailors who undertake the gruelling 630 nautical miles Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.  Coral Expeditions offers a unique opportunity to follow the race in comfort and join in the celebrations at the finish line in Hobart. Combine your enthusiasm for expedition cruising with this epic yacht race with The Yachtsman’s Cruise: Sydney to Hobart voyage departing 26 December on expedition ship Coral Discoverer. Described as the most gruelling ocean race in the world, the 75th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race in 2019 will see 170 yachts cross the start line in Sydney Harbour.

Here is your quick guide to this epic yacht race.

About the Yachtsman’s Cruise

Experience the nautical tradition that is the Rolex Sydney to Hobart yacht race! Board Coral Discoverer on December 26th 2019 and soak up all the excitement in expedition-style comfort at the start of the race. Watch the fleet sail past accompanied by expert commentary from our onboard Guest Lecturer Skip Lissiman O.A.M. Skip is a world-class yachtsman who was part of the winning  1983 Australian America’s Cup crew and has completed six Sydney-Hobart yacht races. We cruise down the Australian coast, crossing the Bass Strait with the trailing fleet. Once across the Bass Strait, we enjoy the rugged Tasmanian coast with the opportunity to join our expedition team on a number of guided shore excursions. Coral Discoverer is scheduled to arrive in Hobart on New Year’s Eve where this is time to enjoy the buzz of the race finale and New Year’s Eve celebrations before disembarking on the 1st January.

Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race Highlights:

  • The start is everything – expect fierce manoeuvring in the pre-start area
  • Which yacht will be first to pass through Sydney Heads?
  • Race categories – how a small yacht can beat a large fancy yacht
  • Bass Strait – why is it so fearsome?
  • Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Hobart

The Start Line on Sydney Harbour

The fleet of yachts starts the race from two start lines in Sydney Harbour between Bradley’s Head and Nielsen Park. The largest, fastest boats are separated from the rest of the fleet with their starting line a few hundred metres ahead of the smaller yachts.
The start line is one of the most tactical elements of the race. Expect much maneuvering in tight quarters as skippers jostle for position, with tension building as the ten-minute and five-minute warning signals precede the starting cannon. After crossing the start line, the fleet pass rounding marks before leaving the sheltered waters of Sydney Harbour and turning their bows southwards towards Hobart.

There are often scrapes and skirmishes accompanied by shouting as yachts call for right-of-way in tight quarters. In 2009 a 30-foot yacht called She’s the Culprit was involved in a crash moments after the start, ending their race even before they had reached Sydney Heads.

Which yacht will pass through Sydney Heads first?

Bragging rights are everything when it comes to claiming the coveted position of the first yacht to pass through Sydney Heads, with the Jack Rooklyn Memorial Trophy awarded to the first yacht for doing so. Australia’s third-oldest lighthouse, Macquarie Lighthouse is a significant navigational mark for mariners, with its South Head location signalling the exit point of Sydney Harbour. Rounding the mark at Sydney Heads signifies the start of the race proper as yachts leave behind sheltered waters and enter the Tasman Sea. As the large spectator fleet retreats, yachts bound for Hobart soon encounter the first of the ocean swells that they will ride until the final run to Hobart and finish line.

Race categories – how a small slow yacht can beat a large fast yacht

The George Adams Tattersall Cup is considered one of the most highly sought-after sailing prizes and is awarded to the overall winner of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race on handicap. Handicap ratings can be complicated, with several divisions contested. IRC is a time corrected rated system whereby the elapsed time between start and finish is multiplied by the yacht’s IRC rating. The beauty of the IRC system is that any well-sailed yacht, regardless of its size, age, technology or the budget of its owner, can win the IRC division.
Line honours are hotly contested amongst elite sailors with the J K Illingworth Challenge Cup awarded to the first yacht to cross the finish line in Hobart – typically a highly technical and well-funded Maxi yacht with a professional crew. Wild Oats IX has won line honours nine times as well as being the first yacht to claim the race record, line honours and Tattersalls Cup winner in 2012. The race record is currently held by LDV Comanche after finishing in a little over one day and nine hours in the 2017 race.

Bass Strait – why is this stretch of water so fearsome?

The Bass Strait is a notoriously difficult stretch of water for sailors to cross. The 250km-wide strait sits at the confluence of the Antarctic-driven Indian Ocean and the Tasman Sea’s Pacific Ocean waters, where strong currents and winds squeeze between two landmasses. Wild storms can develop unexpectedly, whipping up tumultuous seas.

The 1998 race saw ferocious conditions build with strong winds and steep seas causing catastrophic conditions for sailors crossing the Bass Strait. Tragically, six lives were lost, five yachts sunk and 55 sailors plucked from their yachts in the Bass Strait in Australia’s largest-ever peacetime search and rescue effort.

Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Hobart

From the 27th of December onwards, Hobart’s waterfront transforms into a vibrant race village and takes on a festival atmosphere as Sydney to Hobart Race yacht race finishers trickle across the line. Constitution Dock and Salamanca Wharf are abuzz with crews, their friends and families celebrating the completion of what is often an arduous voyage.

The Taste of Tasmania food and wine festival runs from 28 December to 3 January celebrating the best of Tasmania’s produce, adding to the cheerful vibe on the waterfront. Usher in the new year with the best vantage point of celebratory fireworks onboard Coral Discoverer before disembarking on New Year’s Day.

Coral Expeditions’ expert Expedition Team

Coral Expeditions Expedition Team provides expert and insightful interpretation of highlights of each voyage. The Master and Expedition Team will make daily itinerary decisions to maximise the guest experience and take advantage of appropriate weather opportunities. Learn about the history, the heroes and the hazards of competing in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race with Guest Lecturer Skip Lissiman O.A.M, a world-class yachtsman who was part of the winning  1983 Australian America’s Cup crew and has completed six Sydney-Hobart yacht races.

Combine your enthusiasm for expedition cruising with the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, including a Bass Strait Crossing with Coral Expeditions’ Yachtsman’s Cruise: Sydney to Hobart expedition departing 26 December onboard Coral Discoverer.

View Voyage