Australia’s gruelling Sydney to Hobart yacht race will go ahead this year but with a smaller fleet and fans encouraged to watch online instead of thronging vantage points, organisers said.
There had been concerns about the fate of the annual spectacle that departs Sydney on Boxing Day because the border with Tasmania, where the race finishes, was closed due to coronavirus concerns.
But a state government decision this week to reopen borders from Friday means the 628-nautical mile (1,163km) blue-water classic down Australia’s east coast can go ahead.
Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) Commodore Noel Cornish said, after lengthy consultations with health authorities and key stakeholders, a 100-strong fleet would sail south on December 26. More than 150 set off in 2019.
“We are thrilled to have so many yachts participating this year, particularly given the general uncertainty and necessary restrictions placed on many sporting events in Australia over the past six months,” Cornish said late Wednesday.
“The size of the fleet has exceeded all our expectations and is a tremendous show of support for the race.”
While the starting cannon will be fired, the race will have a different feel with a host of international competitors unable to make the journey to Australia and all team briefings held online.
Parties usually held at the CYCA in the lead-up will not take place and restrictions have been placed on the spectator fleets that usually accompany the yachts as their sail out of Sydney Harbour.
There will also be limits on the public vantage points around Sydney’s foreshore that are usually packed with thousands of spectators.
Supermaxi Comanche won line honours in 2019 while Ichi Ban was the overall handicap winner.