12/26/2008 - 12/26/2008 85 °F
Since 1945 an event called the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race takes place on December 26. As the name suggests, the event is a yacht race that begins in Sydney's harbor and ends at Hobart, Tasmania. Eager to see the start of the race, Dawn and I headed out to Watson's Bay to watch.
The distance between Sydney and Hobart is about 730 miles. Bass Strait (area of water between Tasmania and the rest of Australia) is renowned for its high winds and difficult seas. Even though the race is held in the Australian summer, storms often make the Sydney-Hobart race cold, bumpy, and very challenging for the crew. It is typical for a considerable number of yachts to pull out of the race before the Bass Strait crossing. The first year the race was held it took over 6 days to make the trip. The winners of recent races finish in about 2 days. The same boat (Wild Oats XI) has won the last 4 years (including the race we saw).
As you can see on the map above, Sydney's harbor narrows as it connects with the Pacific Ocean. We were on the southern point at Watson's Bay. On the bay side, you are rewarded with beautiful views of the harbor with a backdrop of downtown Sydney (you can see the Harbor Bridge and part of downtown in the picture below). We arrived about 40 minutes before the race started, so we got to see the yachts begin to jostle for position in the harbor. We put down a blanket, ate a packed lunch, and enjoyed the beautiful day with the many other people who made it out to view the beginning of the race.
At 1pm the race started and we watched all the yachts open up their sails and make their way out of the harbor. We walked to the ocean side of Watson's Bay to watch the yachts hit the open sea. Luxury and motor boats circled the yachts, helicopters swarmed like bees, and people lined up 4 deep along the coastline to try to get a good view. Watching the yachts head off into the ocean was nice, but the most impressive view was of the entrance to the Sydney harbor itself. Watson's Bay's ocean side was made of tall cliffs that looked out over the ocean. If not for the race, I probably would have never known that such a scenic view of the ocean existed here in Sydney.
20 minutes after the start of the race, Dawn and I had seen enough boats. We decided to take a leisurely walk back towards the city along the harbor coastline. One of the best parts about Sydney is that you are constantly presented with stunning views of the city. The Harbor Bridge and downtown skyline are visible from almost anywhere close to Sydney (you would be able to see the Opera House if Dawn's head wasn't in the way). As we walked back to the city, we took several breaks just to enjoy the beautiful view.
Our "leisurely" walk turned into a workout. The sun was searing and the path seemed to be almost entirely uphill. We finally made it back to Rose Bay and stopped in a bar for a beer. Boxing Day is one of the biggest days of the year for cricket as it marks the beginning of an international match. Australia was hosting South Africa at the MCG (we were there!). We split some fish-n-chips and watched part of the game before finally making our way back home.
PS - If you put the timeline together from my previous post, you'll notice that we went home and played some cricket ourselves