Even after the fever pitch of Christmas, Sydney Harbour is busy and bustling. Since 1945, December 26 has been an occasion for locals to gather around the water and crowd television sets as an estimated one million Australians—and countless others worldwide—watch live as an inciting shot is fired, a surge of sails spilling out of the harbour: the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race begins.
This year, 107 yachts are scheduled to launch in the annual race from Sydney to Hobart, Tasmania. Skippers from around the world take to 30-foot family-sailed yachts and sweeping 100-foot maxis manned by professional elites, navigating the 628 nautical miles along the New South Wales coast of the Tasman Sea, crossing Bass Strait, and finally carving up the Derwent River to cross the Port of Hobart finish line. The race officially closes January 1, 2018, though the last year’s record-breaking lap clocked at one day, 13 hours, 31 minutes, and 20 seconds—besting the 2012 record by five hours.
Without a doubt, the first to cross the line holds great honour, but the race also celebrates the overall handicap winner regulated by the International Rating Certificate (IRC)—a system that calculates a corrected time given the boat’s measurements and actual finishing time, thereby judging all boats equally regardless of age or technology. The prize? Along with the coveted Tattersall’s Cup comes a Rolex Oyster Perpetual timepiece engraved to commemorate the year, name of the race, and, of course, an inscription designating “Overall Winner”.
Whether spectating or sailing, the race is a thrilling way to spend the final days of the year. The countdown is on.
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