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One of the most celebrated days of the year is nearly upon us! And no, we're not talking about Christmas. For the action sport-lovers, the anticipation is centred on Boxing Day - the start of the epic Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. The excitement is palpable as a fleet of state-of-the-art yachts from all over the world and crewed by the most skilled and hardy sailors on earth prepare to harness the power of wind to brave the turbulent seas and make the treacherous journey south to Hobart. We've got all the info you need to catch either the start or finish in Sydney or Hobart respectively, so ready your sea legs and read on!
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Thankfully unfettered by COVID-19, the annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race will again cast off from Sydney Harbour on December 26th 2020, with competing vessels expected to begin crossing the finish in Hobart from the 28th. The race is a truly spectacular moment in the Australian sporting landscape each year, and an internationally prestigious event with unique appeal. Despite sailing being an Olympic event since 1896, the sport is not among the most popular and attracts little international attention outside of specific events. The Sydney to Hobart is one of these few, however, and is considered one of the most difficult in the sport, turning heads worldwide as its competitors brave the frigid seas off the Australian coastline in a mad dash to Tasmania.
Last year, Comanche, a 100ft (30m) behemoth of a yacht, claimed line honours after approximately 42 hours at sea, but this year will see a raft of new favourites in its absence. The top speed of these maxi yachts is a stately 32 knots (59 km/h), which though less than their motorised cousins, boggles the mind considering their size and reliance on wind alone to propel them. The majesty of these immense marvels of engineering at full sail, knifing through towering waves is an incredible sight, and not to be missed.
It's unclear at this stage how spectator numbers around Sydney Harbour will be managed, though judging by the restrictions expected to be imposed for New Year's Eve, it might be wise to get creative and avoid the most populous spots this year. Sydney Harbour YHA's rooftop has one of the best views of the harbour, and is exclusive to guests who will perfectly placed to watch the mustering of competitors before the race begins. Alternatively, if you've ever thought about watching from the water, this year might be the year.
If you do decide to risk being issued a move-along order by authorities, the three best spots to watch the competing vessels leave Sydney Harbour are Headland Park at Middle Head, Q-Station (North Head) and Hornsby Lighthouse on South Head (in the suburbs of Mosman, Manly and Watsons Bay respectively). Each of these vantage points will let you see the yachts at full steam as they fight to be the first out of the heads and into the open ocean.
The best and most easily accesible spot to watch the finish line is from Battery Point, just south of the centre of Hobart. Here you'll get great views of the finish line itself, just off Castray Esplanade. Alternatively, nearby Constitution Dock is the central hub of the post-race festivities and is a hive of people watching for the triumphant boats as they come in to moor. This will be where you'll be spending the majority of the day if you're hoping to see the victors popping champagne.
If you're among the most enthusiastic, another great option will be to get yourself on the water and be part of the flotilla of vessels escorting the winner down the Derwent and towards their final berth at King's Pier. Unless you own a boat or are well connected, that'll mean buying tickets for one of the commercial viewing vessels.
Regardless of where you'll be watching from, Hobart is a small city and unlike Sydney, it shouldn't be overly difficult to get up close to the action. If you need somewhere to stay while you're there, Hobart Central YHA is literally a block away from Constitution Dock, and round the corner from Battery Point, so it's perfectly positioned to serve as a base for the entirety of your trip!
Due to COVID-19 restrictions (though these are easing rapidly), organisers have been obligated to encourage watching from home via the live TV broadcast of the start (Seven Network) or via livestream on the race's official website. For following the yachts' progress across the open ocean, the official Sydney to Hobart Yacht Tracker is the best way to check in, with real time and historical data and expected finish times updated every 10 minutes. Whatever method you choose for catching the race, the 2020 Sydney to Hobart promises to be a spectacular occasion, and the perfect way to end a difficult year on the right note!
Check out our round up of other sporting events on this summer!