Before and After Christmas Day - The Big Race!

Mike and Liz Downing
Fri 28 Dec 2012 12:48
It was a relatively early start on Boxing Day to head off to see the start of the big race here down under - the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. It always starts at 13.00 and has been a Boxing Day tradition here since 1945. There's normally a reasonably large fleet of top class racing yachts and hundreds of spectator boats to see them off. The plan had been to take one of the boats out and see the start from the water, but there was a strong wind forecast and the feeling was that we would see much more by going to one of the vantage points on land (and without all the stress of trying to avoid a collision!). And so it proved - a group of us headed out on the ferry (the main means of transport in Sydney harbour) to Watson's Bay and walked to South Head, the southern side of the entrance to Sydney Harbour, along with hundreds of locals. This allowed us to see the 76 yachts coming up from the start, going out of the harbour and turning south towards Tasmania and Hobart (628 miles to the south).  There was also a local interest as the person we are renting our buoy from up at Pittwater was taking part on a 60ft yacht called Tusitala (registered in Samoa and with SAM 1 on the mainsail). More by luck that judgment we actually got a couple of good pictures of Tusitala heading out to sea. The race generally takes anywhere between 2 and 5 days depending on the size of the yacht and conditions at sea.
But before the pictures of some fantastic racing yachts, we forgot to put on the pictures from our second 'carols in the park' event, this time in Sydney at the Domain just before Christmas. It was amazing, not due to the carols/Christmas songs that were sung, but due to the number of people - over 50,000! They had to close the gates to the park as there were too many people. Everyone had candles in red holders and seeing all these being held up and waved after dark was stunning. It was also key for another reason - the last performance of the original Wiggles! It helped if you knew who the Wiggles were, which none of our party did, but the rest of the crowd seem to and all got up and danced along. They got the biggest cheer of night!   
The Pyrmont Bridge - a pedestrian bridge taking you into the heart of the city. (With a Mono rail
track going down the middle.) Sydney is a very attractive city.
Could it be Christmas?!
It's T-shirts weather some days and fleece weather other days, depending on which way the
wind blows. The temperature can drop (or rise) by 10 degrees C from one day to the next. It
takes a bit of getting used to.
Sydney from the Woolwich ferry. The ferry terminal is 15 minutes walk from our mooring (once
we've made the 50 yard dinghy ride to the small Woolwich marina) and the ferry is the easiest
and quickest way to get into the city. On the way back, the stop before Woolwich is Greenwich!
The scenery and climate are quite different to the UK, but many of the names are the same.
It's difficult not to take pictures of it!
Carols at the Domain - 50,000 plus waiting hours in advance for the show to get started. And yes,
Woolworths was the main sponsor - they're one of the big food supermarket chains here, akin to
Tesco and Sainsburys in the UK.
I think it was the Wiggles!
On the ferry on the way home.
A great skyline - day or night.
Shogun getting ready before the start of the Sydney to Hobart race. They actually spent the
night before the race in Woolwich marina.
One of the super maxis at 100ft long - Wild Oats XI.
Our crew at South Head, the entrance to Sydney Harbour, waiting for the race to get underway.
Liz was taking the photo.
And they're off!  Wild Oats XI streaking ahead, making, according to one of the reports, over 20kts.
The fleet chase behind.
The great backdrop of Sydney as spectator boats follow along the side of the fleet. The whole
harbour is closed for commercial traffic from 8am to 4pm on Boxing Day.
There was quite a swell coming into the harbour and quite strong winds at times, and with all
these spectator  boats charging down the harbour, we were all pleased that we had left the boats
back in the marina!
It was a short spinnaker run to the entrance to the harbour, but some boats decided it was too
short to bother.
The yachts turn to head out of the harbour. Second from the left is Tusitala.
Tusitala (SAM 1). We didn't realise we had taken this until looking at the photos at the
end of the day. It was all happening too quickly to be able to identify specific yachts, other
than the big super maxis.
Having just checked the Internet, the 5 big boats have already finished. Wild Oats XI crossed the line first in a record time of just 1 day 18 hours and 23 minutes, an average of 14.8kts. The other 71 yachts are still at sea and Tusitala is currently in 34th position with 217 miles still to go. There is also a yacht called Aurora, and she's a metre shorter than Aurora B!