They’re off

The 78th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has begun.

26 December 2023


Lightning, rain, sun – all conditions in one morning have characterised the start of this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

LawConnect made best of its bid to break a hoodoo of three runner-up finishes in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race by leading the fleet towards the Heads after this afternoon’s start.

The Christian Beck owned maxi led off the start line on Sydney Harbour at 1pm, then lost the lead to SHK Scallywag and Andoo Comanche due to a furling issue on a sail change.

SHK Scallywag led out of the Heads from Andoo Comanche, with the fleet of 103 strung out on four start lines. Grant Wharington’s Wild Thing 100 was the last of the maxis to clear the Heads, her smaller rig made it hard to keep up.


Last boat out was the Currawong 30, Currawong, one of 18 two-handed entries that is co-skippered by Kathy Veel and Bridget Canham and was last to reach Hobart last year. Just in front of them was Sylph VI, Bob Williams’ boat with cat Oli aboard enjoying the ride.

Soon outside the Heads, LawConnect recovered from its furling issue and was back leading the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s (CYCA) 628 nautical mile race.

Beck lauded his crew today, but he was at pains to modestly set himself apart from the praise, saying: “That’s not me … The rest of the crew is awesome. I think that’s what will make or break us really.”

Beck also admitted that the label of being seen as perennial Sydney Hobart bridesmaid has added fuel to the motivation of his crew. “Of course, it does. Yes,” he said.

Today’s start before a larger than usual spectator fleet in light 5 to 10 knot east to north-easterly winds was not without drama though.

Andoo Comanche, the defending Line Honours champion skippered by John Winning Jnr, raised a protest flag after a port and starboard incident with the David Witt skippered SHK Scallywag.

However, SHK Scallywag, owned by Seng Huang Lee, completed a 720 degree turn near Bondi which exonerated the Hong Kong boat from the incident.

The forecast before the start was for east to north-east winds of 5 to 10 knots, with winds increasing to 20 knots offshore, with warnings of gusts. Winds were then expected to shift south-westerly by Wednesday as a series of troughs and cold front push through.

By the time the fleet was pushing south down the NSW Coast in lumpy offshore swells this afternoon, the signals of what is expected to come had already been seen.

Half an hour before the start, the humidity and heat made way for a fall in temperature as darkening skies, thunder and lightning in the horizon moved in from the north.

A shower of rain then swept over Sydney Harbour as crews underwent their final preparations before it headed south to leave the harbour again under a blaze of sunshine.

In the front line, the maxis, TP52s and other medium boats had a clean start. The four maxis were separated into two pods. HSK Scallywag and Wild Thing 100 set off from close to the pin on the western side of the Harbour, while LawConnect and Andoo Comanche favoured the east.

Internationally, the race will be available through YouTube on CYCATV or on Facebook Rolex Sydney Hobart page.

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