Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Boxing Day - the cricket and the Sydney-to-Hobart Race start

Hello, lovely Planetarians, you’re all still enjoying the festive season, I see! For those in the southern hemisphere, it’s time for enjoying the lazy, hazy days of summer, isn’t it? And for Australians, the day after Christmas Day is celebrated as Boxing Day, the day two legendary Australian sporting rituals commence – the Boxing Day cricket Test (which normally lasts five days) and the Sydney-to-Hobart Yacht Race (which can take up to five days for the last boat to cross the finish line).

The Test cricket

This year, Australia is playing England for the Ashes as I mentioned here. At 10.30 am on 26 December 2010, Australians the world over tuned in to watch the first ball bowled of the Test, in a tradition stretching back decades. Unfortunately, we’re playing absolutely *woefully* and will probably be walloped tomorrow by a shamefully huge margin. It makes me wish wistfully for a return to the *good old days* of Australian cricket – the 1930s and 1940s when our hero Don Bradman strode the world’s cricket pitches, plundering the bowlers with aplomb, scoring runs in innings which still stand as world records, 70-80 years later. Here’s an amusing postcard (advertising ‘self-supporting trousers’!) I bought at Salamanca Market the other day of the Great Man himself. Complete with the famous (and highly sought-after) autograph.
The Sydney-to-Hobart Yacht Race

But while my attention is held by the cricket at this time of year, it’s often diverted by the progress of the Sydney-to-Hobart Yacht Race. The race is renowned as one of the world’s toughest ocean-going classics. As Mr Wikipedia notesBass Strait, and the waters of the Pacific Ocean immediately to its east, are renowned for their high winds and difficult seas. Even though the race is held in the Australian summer, ‘southerly buster’ storms often make the Sydney-to-Hobart race cold, bumpy and very challenging for the crew’.

At 1 pm on 26 December 2010, the starter’s gun was fired near the entrance to Sydney Harbour, signalling the start of the 630 nautical mile race down to Hobart. Here’s a view of the fleet, mainly comprised of single-masted yachts, sailing out of Sydney Harbour on Sunday, just minutes after the start. When living in Sydney, we sailed out on ferries or stood on the shore to farewell the yachts. It’s such a stunning spectacle. 
Some race history

When the race first started in 1945, only 9 yachts participated. Rani won Line Honours (first across the finish line) in six days, 14 hours and 22 minutes. Growing up in Hobart with a father devoted to sailing instilled an interest in me of the ‘Hobart’ (as it’s known colloquially to yachties) from an early age. I vividly remember the 1975 finish of the American yacht, Kialoa III, in two days, 14 hours and 36 minutes, or about 3.36 am, on 29 December 1975. I was five years old and my sister was two. In the middle of the night, we were bundled up by my parents in our pyjamas into the waiting Holden station wagon and off to Constitution Dock where my Dad managed to grab the yacht’s bowline as it was thrown ashore. Magic! Thousands of Hobartians were there with us, cheering in the dark as television cameramen swarmed around with their bright lights to film the winning crew.

Waiting for the finish each year

Over the years, our family’s post-Christmas routine was altered around the progress of the Race. Whether one could attend a festive season event was qualified by ‘but if the yachts are in the [Derwent] River by then, we won’t be able to make it’. This was an excuse always accepted by fellow Hobartians who were equally anxious to stop whatever they were doing and either hop in their boats to sail out to welcome the new arrivals or race to popular harbourside locations to jostle for the best vantage point. My Dad often worked as a volunteer in the Race Control Centre at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania (RYCT) and would hear the radio ‘scheds’ (schedules) when skippers had to radio in their positions. That meant we often had the inside running on when yachts were due to arrive in Hobart before the media knew! Here’s an overhead view of the RYCT with the Tasman Bridge in the background. The finish line is just off the point immediately below the white cruise ship.

I vividly remember the drama of the finish to the 1982 race when Condor of Bermuda defeated Apollo by only seven seconds – after a race of 630 nautical miles!

The 1998 race

I also starkly recall the tragic 1998 race which finished only days before our wedding - 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 fellow yachties, my Dad and my brother were devastated and attended memorial services for the victims. It really cast a pall over Hobart which has always prided itself on its friendliness and warm welcome to the competitors and their families who fly in from all over the world to meet up with their loved ones at the end of this gruelling race. Instead, Hobart received mourners for funerals. That race’s legacy has been a vastly improved focus on safety requirements which has, in part, contributed to a lower number of entrants in recent years owing to the extra costs required to compete.

Over the years, I’ve watched the prestigious ‘first across the line’ record smashed several times – it’s now held by the 2005 winner, Wild Oats XI, which won in one day, 18 hours and 40 minutes. That’s the very same yacht which crossed the finish line in Hobart about 2 ½ hours ago in a time of two days, 7 hours, 37 minutes and 20 seconds! No, this year, we weren’t at the finish line but instead home with the three sleeping pixies. How times have changed! Here she is, about a couple of hours ago, sailing over the finish line in the Derwent.
She’s the ‘provisional’ Line Honours winner as a protest has been lodged by the Race Committee for failing to report her position to race headquarters via radio as she entered Bass Strait. So, tonight there are no wild scenes of jubilation in old Hobart Town – celebrations are tempered somewhat. However, Hobartians will still turn out in droves over the next few days to welcome each finisher, honking car horns and clapping – the big hope is that all the yachts finish this year and not in 2011! New Year’s Eve in Hobart is the place to be – I’d love to see some of you down here one year to celebrate with us. Give it some thought!

Postscript on 29 December 2010: The protest was dismissed so Wild Oats XI has been declared the 2010 Line Honours winner.


  1. Oh dear - don't mention the cricket over at my place!! What a disaster :-(

  2. Wow, cricket and yachting - two things I don't have a clue about :) Thank you so much for the stories - wonderful!! XO L

  3. I can't say I'm into the cricket (at all) but I do like the Sydney to Hobart. We thought we'd go down for a look in a day or two. It brings such a nice energy to Hoart :)

  4. no cricket for me, but the Sydney to Hobart is a definate high for us, especially since we became part of the local population!

  5. Er, Cate. The less said, the better!

    Glad you enjoyed them, Laura - you're always the one informing me on all manner of topics ☺.

    Absolutely, Sarah, just what the old girl needs!

    Good for you, Bec. I'm looking forward to the Taste - yum. J x

  6. Great post Jane, I was once in Hobart on a layover as the ships started to arrive and the atmosphere was fantastic!

  7. Paul is hugely into cricket (although he is a traitor and supports England!!) and so the Ashes have been on our telly for most of the break after Christmas. He is already planning his trip to go to the UK for the next series :) I find the Sydney to Hobart yacht race really interesting - when we were in Hobart, we saw the cute pub that all the teams end up celebrating at afterwards - I can still picture it but can't remember its name.

  8. You're right, Emma, the place is really abuzz at this time of year as all the sailors are reunited with their families and stay for the New Year celebrations.

    Oh, Amanda, that is a cross for you to bear, having a Pommie fan in the house ☺. Gosh, there are lots of pubs they frequent - maybe you're thinking of the Customs House? Or Knopwood's? J x


Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, you gorgeous soul. You've just made my day! J x

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