Saturday, December 30, 2006

Sydney to Hobart

Australians love sports of all sorts, and there is much anticipated sailing race that begins in Sydney and ends in Hobart (in Tasmania.) It begins on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, and takes the fastest yachts about two days to complete. The current record for the fastest time to the finish line is 1 day, 18 hours, 40 minutes and 10 seconds, set in 2005 by a yacht named Wild Oats XI. Thousands of Australians make a day of it, and go out to watch the start of the race. We met Andrea and her twin girls, and set out to see what all the excitement was about. We were not disappointed!

Sydney harbour from above

A satellite view of Sydney harbour.
The Yellow arrow points to our apartment in Rozelle.
The Orange arrow points to Circular Quay (pronounced "Key"), the ferry hub of Sydney.
The Red arrow points to South Head, from where we watched the beginning of the race.

We took a ferry from Circular Quay to Watson's Bay, and then walked up along the shore to South Head, where Sydney harbour opens up into the Tasman Sea. We got there early enough to find a great spot, and put down our blanket. Then we enjoyed a picnic lunch, watched small planes skywriting, and waited for the 1:00 pm start. We had a great view of North Head, and were only steps away from a great city skyline view as well. The weather was perfect, but our sunny spot required the application of sunscreen, and hats!

Waiting for the yachts

Some historic sailing ships started things off, sailing majestically down the harbour. Andrea's husband Steve volunteers for the Heritage fleet, and was lucky enough to earn a spot aboard the largest of them, the James Craig.

The James Craig

At 1:00 pm sharp we heard the cannon boom, and the race was on. All the picnickers got to their feet to watch!

And they're off!

Here you can see Wild Oats XI, last year's winner, leading the way out of the harbour, turning South on the treacherous voyage down to Tasmania - a trip that would take them over two days.

Into the Tasman Sea

There was a buzz of activity, with at least 7 helicopters flying around, and hundreds of private boats zooming all over. The racing yachts (78 in all) had a clear channel to sail in, but outside the channel was fair game.

On their way

We got our fill of the yachts, and then stayed and enjoyed the amazing scenery for a while before heading back for the day.

Shami at the yacht race

The Sydney to Hobart course is a difficult one. As it turns out, Wild Oats XI kept her lead, and won the race again, although dangerous seas claimed several boats, including one that had just overtaken her. There were some injuries, but luckily no loss of life. Wild Oats XI took 2 days and almost 9 hours to finish the race this time, and became the first back-to-back winner since 1964.

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