Great Race South is go!

Despite a handful of scratchings, a fleet of 88 will start the 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race at the traditional lunchtime slot on 26 December.

Photography by © Copyright Salty Dingo 2021

26 December 2021


Considered one of the top trophies in ocean racing, 2021 marks the 76th edition, and 77th year of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, first held in 1945.

A fleet of 88 yachts will take on the famous 628-nautical mile (1,010-kilometre) course which commences from Sydney Harbour and finishes in Hobart, the capital of the island state of Tasmania.

Competition for the race’s main prizes, line honours for the first finisher and, above all, overall victory on corrected time, is always intense.

Winning the race, and the much-coveted Tattersall Cup, affords the victorious crew a permanent place in yachting folklore. Sailors have long been drawn to the scale and unpredictability of this legendary nautical challenge, and to the demands on their skills in both preparing and handing their yacht.


Crews in the 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race were eagerly bracing themselves this morning for a classic tough start with a forecast southerly set to send them on their way.

The Bureau of Meteorology of NSW today confirmed the forecast for the 1pm start of 15 to 20 knot southerly winds that would likely increase to 25 knots outside the Heads.

Conditions for the first two days are likely to remain similar, although winds could shift to the south east as the feet heads south. Meanwhile 1.5 to 2.5 metre waves are expected.

Cloud cover and rain showers with possible thunderstorms later were also forecast.

For all boats, the challenge after starting and exiting the Heads will not only be to settle into their race rhythm and watch systems, but to keep their boats intact in the tough conditions.

At the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, the mood was of relief that the 628 nautical mile race was poised to start after the disappointment of last year’s cancellation due to COVID-19.

As the crews continued to receive their mandatory COVID-19 PCR test results, attention focused on the forecast and what impact it might have on the fleet.

“It’s looking like a pretty standard Hobart,” said CYCA Commodore Noel Cornish of the southerly. “You can see [it] out there now and it’ll build.

“What we’re going to see out there in the next 24 hours is something that you would expect to see on the race track in a normal Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.”

Three 100-footers will be vying for line honours: the Juan-K 100 LawConnect, owned and skippered by Christian Beck, the Dovell 100 SHK Scallywag 100, skippered by David Witt, and the Reichel/Pugh 100 Black Jack, owned by Peter Harburg and skippered by Mark Bradford.

Three boats that looked to be ideally suited for the conditions forecasted this morning in the battle for overall victory and the Tattersall Cup are the S&S 47 Love & War, owned and skippered by Simon Kurts; the S&S 34 White Bay 6 Azzurro that is owned and skippered by Shane Kearns; and the Schumaker 54 Maritimo 11, owned by Bill Barry-Cotter that will be skippered by Michael Spies.

Views varied about the forecast and its impact, on the docks of the CYCA this morning.

Les Goodridge, owner/skipper of the X-50 Wax Lyrical said: “The weather is bits of good and bits of bad.”

Bob Thomas, the navigator on the Sydney 38 Cinquante, said: “It’s great weather for us … a big blow at the start. The first in 20 years … it will slow the big boats down.”

Matt Allen, owner/skipper of the TP52 Ichi Ban, which has twice won the Tattersall Cup, said he was readying for a slower race.

With his crew all COVID tested and ready to race, Allen said: “We are probably more focused on how we’re going to configure the boat and which sails we’re going to take.

“The weather is looking pretty slow. We’re going to be out on the racetrack for a long period of time.

“Probably for the higher rated boats like us it [the weather forecast] doesn’t really suit. It’s going to be challenging for us. We’re looking at probably three days, three days and five hours.”

Asked about the pressure on navigators to read the conditions well in this year’s race, Allen said: “Every Hobart has its technical challenges for sure. I think this race is going have more.

“There are usually two or three big decisions in a race. This race might have six or seven.

“There’s probably not that many decisions to make early on in the race apart from when we tack. And that first tack is not that complicated, but the race later is going to be full on.”

The 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race fleet currently stands at 88 following the withdrawal of several vessels, including  Jim Cooney’s Volvo Open 70, Willow, and the Infiniti 46R, Maverick 49, owned by Quentin Stewart.

Cooney advised the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) that three of his crew had tested positive to COVID-19 and to be cautious, has withdrawn. His yacht, Willow, was to be amongst the front runners behind the 100-footers.

Stewart has not reported any COVID-19 cases but told the CYCA he was withdrawing because he did not want to take the risk.

Cooney said today “We had three positive tests and still waiting on two tests.

“There is no feasible or responsible way we can continue. I do have crew on standby that are negative, so it’s not so much about now, but what it might be like in 48 hours. There is still potential for people to pass it on. The approach is to gracefully withdraw and not put people in jeopardy.

“As the owner and skipper there is a moral and legal responsibility if people are carrying the virus but not showing symptoms or testing positive yet.

“My son Douglas was looking forward to his first race last year, having turned 18 and has missed out again this year. He was very much looking forward to it after a successful line honours win in the TransPac Race with parents and brother in 2019.”

Cooney ended “I wish the remainder of the fleet all the best for the race.”

The remaining 88 yachts, including 18 two-handed entries, are ready to take on the 628 nautical mile challenge that at 1pm (EST).

Key facts about the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2021

  • The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia is the home of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
  • This is the 76th edition of the Sydney Hobart, following the cancellation of the 2020 race.
  • The first Sydney Hobart Yacht Race was conducted in 1945 (won by Captain John H Illingworth’s Rani).
  • There are 91 boats currently entered for the 2021 race.
  • 18 boats will compete in the inaugural Two-Handed Division.
  • Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban was the Overall winner of the previous edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart in 2019. Comanche, owned by Jim Cooney and Samantha Grant, won Line Honours in 2019.
  • The Overall winner (IRC) of the Rolex Sydney Hobart wins the Tattersall Cup.
  • The Line Honours winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart wins the John H Illingworth Challenge Cup.


For the full list of entries and more information about the race, visit

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