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Christmas Day was a complete washout, with heavy rain, thunder and lightning, so we just stayed home and ate some lovely seafood for lunch, followed by a raspberry pavlova!

This morning, though, the sun was shining once again for the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race, from Sydney Harbour at 1pm.

We’ve seen this event on the news in Europe over many previous years, so this year, we just had to be in the Harbour to watch the start of the race.  The ferries were running to a Sunday schedule today, with a gap in their timetables so as not to interfere with the race, so we decided to drive to Watson’s Bay, a couple of hours before the race was due to start.   This meant we could park easily and had plenty of time to search out the best vantage point.  

Over the past 67 years, the Rolex Sydney Hobart has become an icon of Australia’s summer sport, ranking in public interest alongside such national events as the Melbourne Cup horse race, the Davis Cup tennis and the cricket tests between Australia and England.  No regular annual yachting event in the world atracts such media coverage than does the start of this race on Sydney Harbour.

The 628 nautical mile course is often described as one of the most gruelling ocean yacht races in the world.  

As you might imagine, the race start attracts hundreds of spectator craft and hundreds of thousands of people line the shore as helicopters buzz over the fleet, filming for TV channels around the world.

We positioned ourselves with a great view back towards the city and the start line, when all of a sudden the “ten minute gun” sounded, which caused a ripple of excitement among the crowd.  Not long now!

Sure enough, within a few minutes, the yachts were racing past us, with bookies favourite, Wild Oats XI already in the lead.  Boats of all shapes and sizes, competitors and spectators alike, with the wind in their sails or with motors throbbing, whizzed past towards The Gap.

From the spectacular start in Sydney Harbour, the fleet sails out into the Tasman Sea, down the south-east coast of mainland Australia, across the Bass Strait (which divides the mainland from the island State of Tasmania), then down the east coast of Tasmania.  At Tasman Island the fleet turns right into Storm Bay for the final sail up the Derwent River to the historic port of Hobart.

God speed – and we shall see who the winner is in a couple of days!

Edited to add (Friday 28th December 2012):

Supermaxi yacht, Wild Oats XI, crossed the line in Hobart to win the Rolex Sydney Hobart race in record time of 1 day 18 hours 23 minutes and 12 seconds, clinching her sixth line honours.