It doesn’t get much attention in the U.S., but by far the most popular sailing event Down Under is the annual Sydney-Hobart race that begins each year the day after Christmas, or Boxing Day.
At 1 p.m. (Australian time) Monday, the gun will fire to signal the start of the 67th Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. This year 88 yachts have entered for the 628-nautical-mile bluewater classic.
First run in 1945 as a race for friends down the east coast to Hobart, on the southern Aussie island of Tasmania, this annual event is now regarded as one of ocean racing’s premier events, alongside races like the Fastnet. It attracts sailors and crews from all over the world.
The crew from one entry, Wild Oats XI, has another, more somber, duty to perform on her run south. She will be carrying and scattering the ashes of ABC helicopter pilot Gary Ticehurst, who was killed along with reporter Paul Lockyer and cameraman John Bean in August. Ticehurst was an integral part of the media coverage of the race for many years, and is recognized as having been instrumental in the saving of many lives during the disastrous 1998 race, in which six sailors died.
Since coverage is wall-to-wall in Australian, including nationally televised coverage of the race, click here to read a profile a local doctor who will be one of the few novice crews not to have sailed the course before Monday's race. The 46-year-old only started racing in 2006, but has loved the sport since he began sailing at age 10.
Click here for a profile of another sailor and his bluewater brush with death when his 22-foot boat was struck by a tanker ship.