I have a new appreciation for yachting after having experienced the homecoming of the boats in the Rolex Sydney to Hobart race for 2012. My past experience was one run out from Bowen as part of the Cruising Yacht Clubs twilight sailing series in December last year on a small yacht, crewed by two, with two spectators.....and a top speed of perhaps 10 knots. These yachts are crewed by approximately 18 crew, are 100 foot long and sail at up to 30 knots. Chalk and cheese really.
The buzz in Hobart over the last couple of days has been incredible. It really has been fun to be a part of it. Seeing Wild Oats XI come up the mouth of the Derwent and into Constitution Dock was amazing. The size of these craft, their dependence on the air currents and the fact that they were so far ahead of the second boat to cross the line is inspiring. The money invested in these yachts is in the seven digits. Crews are professional and spend their year sailing the world honing their craft.
While we watched Wild Oats XI come across the line from our room - perfectly positioned adjacent to the action, we headed down to the dock mid morning and saw not only other boats crossing the line, but were allowed access to the marina to view the boats from close quarters. Seeing them up close and personal makes you realise the passion those people who sail them must have. No creature comforts, limited protection from the ocean and almost two days at sea. Dedication to the max. Even the guy steering has a bum rail only to lean against - no seat!
People in Hobart have really got behind the race and each and every time a yacht crosses the line there is a crowd of people lining the docks to wish the crew well and cheer them home. Restaurant staff are up with current details and there is a leader board with yacht names and estimated finish times which is updated as each boat crosses the line.
As for my race favourites? Living Doll retired with a broken rudder, but Black Jack crossed the line fourth! Not a bad effort for one of the little guys.
With three quarters of the fleet still to come in, it looks like Wild Oats XI might take out the trifecta - line honours, race record and handicap. I guess that can only be seen as a good investment for her owners, the Oatleys from Hamilton Island.