The 2022 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race got off to a fast and dramatic start today. The assisting downwind conditions once the boats turned right at the Heads could see the first boat cross the finish line as early as tomorrow night.
The 1pm start on Sydney Harbour got under way in north to north easterly 10-15 knot winds, under glorious sun and blue skies, belying the thick fog that blanketed Sydney at dawn.
Moments after the fleet of 109 boats began their 628 nautical mile race, the race between the four maxis was impacted by drama.
Three of the maxis took the western channel on Sydney Harbour – Andoo Comanche, Black Jack and LawConnect; while Hamilton Island Wild Oats immediately tacked for the eastern side. From there, the fleet regularly tacked up the Harbour to make their way out of the Heads.
Amidst the action that also saw the mid to small size boats make the best of their starts, a standout sight was that of the John Winning Jr-skippered Andoo Comanche executing a 720-degree penalty turn due to a possible protest against them.
Hamilton Island Wild Oats, skippered by Mark Richards, also undertook a penalty turn, despite not knowing if it had been required to or not – perhaps they were remembering 2017 when a rule infringement cost them Line Honours and the race record to LDV Comanche.
By 3pm, the race also had its first drop out, with the Hick 40 Avalanche, a two-handed entry owned by James Murchison and co-skippered by James Francis, reporting a broken bowsprit, reducing the fleet to 108 boats and 19 two-handed entries.
The four maxis were so close in the race to the Heads, they looked set for a thrilling scenario towards the finish down the Derwent River in Hobart, with a couple of red protest flags seen fluttering. The honour of being first out went to LawConnect, ahead of Hamilton Island Wild Oats.
Black Jack, the Botin 80 Stefan Racing, the Reichel/Pugh 72 URM Group, Andoo Comanche and the Reichel/Pugh 69 Moneypenny were next out in that order. Following close behind were the dozen TP52s, led by Celestial.
The sight of the fleet heading south towards Tasmania was superb, especially amidst the heightened anticipation of whether or not the Line Honours record would be broken or not. LDV Comanche (then owned by Jim Cooney/Samantha Grant) currently holds the record of 1 day, 9 hours, 15 minutes, 24 seconds.
Today’s Rolex Sydney Hobart race start lived up to every expectation on so many fronts. The brilliant summer conditions aside, it attracted a huge spectator fleet, made up of boats of all sizes. Meanwhile, crowds flocked to the key vantage point on land, especially at South Head.
The race, in a fleet that included 20 two-handed entries, was as fast and spectacular as expected once the yachts turned right for Hobart, with the wind behind them.
At the 1pm start, the boats jockeyed for position from four designated start lines, assigned depending on their size and class.