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Starting orders.

THE START LINE EXPLAINED

The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's flagship event, will start at ipm on Boxing Day from Sydney Harbour for the 69th consecutive year.

No other commercial port in the world can boast the start of such an internationally recognised blue water classic, with the natural grandeur of Sydney Harbour providing a unique backdrop for competitors as well as the hundreds of thousands of spectators afloat and ashore.

The port of Sydney will be closed from 9am to 4pm on Boxing Day in the interests of safety and to give the yachts a clear run as they exit the Harbour. An exclusion zone will be effective from 1.00pm until lz.3opm, providing the 90-plus strong fleet with a clear run to sail unobstructed through the Heads. A six-knot no-wash zone will cover the Harbour from Garden Island and Bradley's Head to a line between North Head and Macquarie Light.

In what has been a Boxing Day tradition for Sydney since 1945, thousands take to Sydney Harbour, either on the water or on the foreshores to watch the start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race. Sometimes it is a colourful spinnaker start, at other times a beat to windward with the yachts crossing tacks as they sprint towards the open sea.

Ranked as one of the most demanding long ocean races in the world, the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race covers a distance of 628 nautical miles. It can take between two and six days to sail with the race record oft day 18 hours 23 minutes and 12 seconds set in 2012 by Wild Oats XI. An excellent start is considered an important psychological advantage for the helmsperson of almost every boat in the race.

To give yachts a clear area in which to manoeuvre before the start, and then ample room to tack or gybe as they race to the Heads, NSW Roads & Maritime has declared an exclusion zone from 12pm to 2.3opm on Boxing Day, with the area for the yachts clearly marked by yellow buoys.

The fleet will start simultaneously from two start lines, as it has been done for a number of years, due to the speeds of the larger yachts. These big boats will start off the front line, 0.2 nautical miles north of the back line, with identical starting signals for both groups of yachts.

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To make allowance for this advantage, boats on the front line will sail a similar extra distance to their rounding mark, Victor, near North Head before heading to sea. Boats starting off the back line will round mark X-ray, just north of South Head.

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Once they leave those marks to starboard, all boats will head for and also leave to starboard, the seamark Zulu. laid one nautical mile east of Sydney Heads, before turning south and setting course for Tasmania.

The two starting lines will stretch across the Harbour, the back line about 4,00 metres north of Shark Island, both lines marked by large Rolex buoys at either end.

Spectator craft may not enter the exclusion zone between these times and once the race starts the competing yachts must sail within the zone until they clear the Heads.

WHAT ARE THE YACHTS DOING?

For the Wild Oats XI team, the day starts early at around 8 -8.3oam when the crew arrive at Woolwich dock, where the super maxi is kept.

Once the final weather forecast is received, the decision is made on what sails will be put aboard. The crew then start taking the sails that are needed but not aboard the yacht from the shed to WOXI, and also take off any sails that are on board but not required.

Concurrently, skipper Mark Richards, strategist Iain Murray and navigator Tom Addis discuss the desired course from Sydney to Hobart and what tactics should apply.

Back on the boat, a final rig and equipment check is made while food, wet weather gear and personal bags (containing not much) go on board; with the yacht's support truck carrying all excess gear and delivery sails to Hobart. While this is happening, skipper Mark Richards and key crew leave Woolwich Dock by high-speed inflatable for the CYC.A for the final briefing. That complete, media obligations are met and then they return to Woolwich and prepare for departure. After returning from the briefing the crew has a final pep talk with owner Bob Oatley.

Every year there is always a big crowd on the dock to see Wild Oats leave--family, friends, locals and media. The docklines are off and the yacht departs about two hours before the start (to three rousing cheers). On the way out Ricko and key crew members address a crew gathering in the cockpit. Conditions for the start, and the race, are discussed, along with a likely start scenario.

Wild Oats is sailed all the way to the Heads, and possibly outside (briefly) so conditions there can be appraised. This way the team get a better understanding of what sails will be set (if a change is needed), after turning the first and/or second marks. Ricko then guides the super maxi back to the start line where she reports in to the Race Committee.

With that done everyone switches into race mode. The most important thing is the strategy that has been developed which is applied at the start; a strategy designed to give WOXI the best chance of being first out the Heads.

EVERY SECOND COUNTS!

As the countdown to the start begins, the CYCA's cannons will be fired aboard the official starting vessel Aussie Legend to draw attention to the traditional starting flag sequence. as follows:

* 12:50 hours (12.50pm)--10-minute warning signal--Code flag W hoisted and cannon fired

* 12:55 hours (12.55pm)--5 minute preparatory signal--Code flag P hoisted and cannon fired

* 13:00 hours (1.00pm)--starting signal--Code flag W and Code flag P dropped and cannon fired.

A further signal (Code flag X) and a sound signal (from the individual start lines) may indicate premature starter(s) (OCS--On Course Side) by individual yachts. which must return and re-start. Yachts that have broken the start will be advised by radio 5 minutes after the start. There will be no general recall.

If the wind is from the south, southeast or southwest, the fleet will have a spinnaker run to the Heads. An easterly breeze will see a close reach under working sails down the Harbour. An excellent start is considered an important psychological advantage.

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If the wind is from the north or northeast, the fleet will have to tack (beat to windward) up the Harbour to the turning marks at the Heads. This could see some close encounters between competing yachts as they cross tacks, some sailing right to the edge of the exclusion zone to gain a tactical advantage.

ADVICE FOR SPECTATOR CRAFT IN THE SYDNEY HARBOUR EXCLUSION ZONE

* The Sydney Harbour exclusion zone will come into force at 12pm and continue through to 2.3opm. The zone will be marked with yellow buoys and some fixed navigational aids.

* The rounding marks Victor and X-ray at Sydney Heads will be large Rolex conical inflatable buoys. as will mark Zulu, one nautical mile due east of the Heads.

* All spectator craft must remain outside the exclusion zone until

* No spectator craft is permitted to anchor or remain anchored within-too metres of the exclusion zone.

* Boats may only proceed through the no anchoring' zone near South Head if going out to sea and must comply with the 6-knot speed limit

* Commercial vessels only will have access the commercial vessels area (see map).

* Spectator craft should not operate under sail near the exclusion zone from noon until the fleet has cleared the Heads.

* Non-powered (passive) craft such as kayaks, canoes and surfboats are prohibited in the area within too metres of the exclusion zone. This area is unsafe for non-powered craft because of the large number of bigger boats and their wash, as well as the potential difficulty in seeing and avoiding passive craft.

Control Vessels--RMS Maritime and Police vessels will be patrolling and enforcing in this area. Please obey instructions from volunteer marine rescue vessels, as well as RMS Maritime and Police boats.

General safety messages will be broadcast on marine radio band 27.88 and VHF Channels 17 (NSW Maritime control network) and 13 (Sydney Ports).

RACE ENTRANTS

* All competing yachts will display a special Rolex race flag on their backstay. Please be sure to keep well away from any vessel displaying such flags.

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STARTING VANTAGE POINTS

The sight of 90-plus yachts taking to Sydney Harbour on 26 December to mark the start of the 69th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is a truly spectacular event to witness first hand. No other commercial Harbour in the world is closed to shipping traffic for one day to commence a yacht race!

From early on Boxing Day morning NSW Roads and Maritime coordinates the Harbour closure and installation of the exclusion zone, with the host club the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, responsible for the deployment of the all race marker buoys.

Spectators also begin to gather from early in the morning whether on boat or land. It's a great family day of fun in the sun! There is a mixture of great vantage points around the Harbour for you to watch the start of this great ocean race--so bring your picnic lunch of Christmas leftovers with you and secure the best set in the house--either on water or land!

Some of the best vantage points on water are: either side of the start line, Steele Point on the east and Taylors Bay on the west. Boaters can position themselves in the western channel at Chowder Bay, Obelisk Bay and waters to North Head or in the eastern channel in Rose Bay, Watsons Bay. Camp Cove and around South Head.

For those that wanting to get out on the water and don't own a boat there a couple of options available. The CYCA runs two spectator craft--one with access to the exclusion zone and one without. Majestic II has access to the exclusion zone area, expert commentary from CYCA members and gets you up close and personal with the fleet. Tickets are available through the race website http://www.rolexsydneyhobart.corn/spectators/spectator-vessels/ at a cost of $199 per adult; $99.50 for children aged 5 -12; children under 5 no charge.

The Fiesta Ferry is the perfect option for families as it allows guests to self-cater, but does not have access to the exclusion zone. Tickets are $62 per person and can be booked online bttp://www.rolexsydneyh.obart.com/spectators/spectator-vessels/. Other cruise operators such as Flagship Cruises, Coast Cruises, Captain Cook Cruises and Bass & Flinders Cruises have packages available but don't have exclusion access.

For those that can't get out on water, the best vantage points on land include: Bradley's Head, Chowder Bay, Georges Heights and Middle Head on the western shore: Shark Island, Steele Point, Vaucluse Point, South Head and The Gap on the eastern shore: North Head in the north, which offers a magnificent panoramic view back up the Harbour and also to sea and down the coast. Get in early to claim the best vantage points!

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LANDMARK YEAR

This year, marks the 50th anniversary of the first of Freya's three historic consecutive wins, and her owners Trygve and Magnus Halvorsen have both been invited to fire the cannon to start the 69th edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

At the time of going to press Trygve had confirmed that he was intending to fire the cannon, despite failing eyesight, with his brother Magnus having not yet confirmed due to health reasons.

"I'm amazed that our record of three consecutive overall wins still stands," Halvorsen. said. "I don't think it will be long now before it goes--the advancement in yacht design over the years has been astounding."

Recalling the 1963 race Trygve said: "We thought we were going to win--it was our time after previously winning once with Solveig 14/ (1954), once with Anitra V (1957) and placed second in 1956, 1958 and 1959. We'd been given the nickname 'Seconds Halvorsens' around the dock."

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"Our fellow competitors told us that they were planning to gang up on us. so dusk was when we made our decisions. We stayed fairly close to the rhumbline, sailing as straight as we could and not going more than 15 miles out," Treyve added.

Brother Magnus was renowned for his skills in celestial navigation, albeit self-taught.

Freya was a 38-foot, 6-inch LOA double ender with a vertical spade rudder and a long straight keel, planked in Oregon and splined (wedges glued between the planks instead of caulking). One of the more radical features (for the time) was the mast, which could change shape to suit the wind.

"It was stepped on the deck and could pivot. This allowed the mast to move forward when going to windward, which meant that the mainsail could be flattened." Trygve added.

"The mast also allowed the crew to change a mainsail in three minutes and those were the days that boats were only allowed to carry one mainsail--so it was revolutionary for its time. Magnus also convinced me to lengthen the keel."

Other keys to their success were boat speed, reliability and attention to detail. "Good boat speed is essential

--combine that with a reliable boat and attention to detail and you've got a receipe for success. I recall one race working with Stan Darling until midnight: on Christmas Day just to get the boat ready.

"The next morning, I was ill with a bout of gastro and my wife called around to find a replacement, as I didn't want to give it to the rest of the crew. Kerry Hammond took my place and he arrived at the house, picked up my kit bag and jumped onboard," Trygve recalled.

The Halvorsens are living legends of the Sydney Hobart Yacht race and have left their mark on the race and yachting industry thanks to their pioneering yacht designs, boat building and sailing skills including celestial navigation.

Joining the Halvorsens on the official start vessel. Aussie Legend, will be Graeme Burgess, who will fire the five minute gun representing second placed Cavalier, with Norman Ridge, representing third placed Lolita Maria, firing the 10-minute warning signal.

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VANTAGE POINT

Yachting fans throng the shore as the fleet lines up at the start lines, flanked by spectator boats.

THE ROUTE SOUTH

Above: The 628-nautical-mile Rolex Sydney Hobart course, that Wild Oats XI covered in 2012 in a record-breaking one day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds.

Race committee and international jury

The role of the Race Committee Chairman is pivotal as it is the Chairman's responsibility to ensure the smooth running of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. For the twelfth consecutive year the Race Committee will be chaired by Commodore Tim Cox AM RAN (retired). Commodore Cox leads a team of eight volunteers, comprising of members of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia and the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania.

The Race Committee Chairman works with the CYCA Commodore, Sailing Committee Chairman and the Sailing Office to assess all entries in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, including stability and safety matters. Once the event commences on 26 December, the committee is responsible for 24-hours-a-day race operations at the RYCT.

Commodore Cox has vast sea experience, having been a captain of HMAS Perth and HMAS Derwent and Commodore RAN Flotillas before being based in Canberra as director general of Maritime Development.

He is a keen yachtsman, skippering his DK43 Minerva in CYCA and Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron inshore and offshore events.

Other members of the Race Committee from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia are long-standing committee member 'Safety' Sam Hughes, a former senior officer with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and David Jordan.

Representatives from the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania who serve on the race committee are Ross Mannering, Kim Newstead, Graeme Dineen, Perry Foster, and Ian Smith.

Working throughout the year, the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race Planning Committee chaired by CYCA Commodore Howard Piggott with other members including Vice Commodore John Cameron, Immediate Past Commodore Garry Linacre, Past Commodore Martin James, Past Director Les Goodridge and CYCA Director Noel Cornish. The committee is responsible for race planning, policy matters, event logistics, sponsor relations and media strategy.

The CYCA Board hands the management of the race over to the race committee in September.

Chairman of the International Jury for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is John Rountree from New Zealand, his second year as chairman and who has served as an international jury member five times.

John has been an ISAF international judge since 2001 and an international umpire since 1996.

Joining John will be experienced international Jurors Tony Mooney (AUS) who has been nominated as the deputy chairman, Lars Nyqvist (FIN), Ronnie McCracken (HKG) and Noel Allen (AUS)
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Title Annotation:THE ROLEX SYDNEY HOBART YACHT RACE, THE CRUISING YACHT CLUB OF AUSTRALIA'S FLAGSHIP EVENT, WILL START AT 1PM ON BOXING DAY FROM SYDNEY HARBOUR FOR THE 69TH CONSECUTIVE YEAR.
Publication:Offshore Yachting
Date:Jan 24, 2014
Words:2864
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