Sydney to Hobart yacht race calls out to Asia

Australia‘s bluewater Sydney to Hobart sailing race Wednesday called for more boats from Asia, as one of the organisers said Europe’s financial woes could be hurting the size of the fleet.

Eighty-eight boats are expected to line up in Sydney Harbour on December 26 to begin the treacherous 628-nautical-mile race down southeast Australia to Hobart, the capital of the island of Tasmania.

Overwhelmingly they are Australia-based yachts, with only a handful coming from the United States, Britain, Hong Kong, France or New Zealand.

“We are always looking to do what we can to try to encourage international people to come here,” Garry Linacre, commodore of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, which organises the race, told journalists.

“Unfortunately… we don’t govern the world economy.”

Linacre said the race, which often features appalling weather conditions such as the 1998 storms in which six people died, said while a number of this year’s competitors campaigned heavily in Asia, more visitors were welcome.

But with competitors facing gale force winds and towering seas only to be met with a tense lull in the final stretch in the Derwent River heading into Hobart, he acknowledged it was not for everyone.

“Basically a lot of the Asian people are more people that probably like to go out of Sydney Heads (the entrance to Sydney Harbour) and turn left (north to the warmer climate of Queensland) instead of right,” Linacre said.

“And they are much more attuned, and their boats are much more attuned, to lighter weather sailing and there’s a lot of lighter conditions that prevail in Asia.

“But again, we will do everything we can to encourage Asian people to come here and sail in our races.”

Linacre said the race had had Asian participation over the years, and two boats from Hong Kong were set to start this year — Ffreefire 52 and Strewth — in the competition’s 67th race.

“But we’re not seeing the Thailand boats and the Japanese haven’t been here for a while. Hopefully we can keep working on that. I would very much like to see more,” he said.

He added that it might be easier to bring more foreign competitors into the race if New Zealand were successful in establishing a new race around the same time.

“We are doing everything we can to help them… because I would say if there were two iconic ocean races in the Southern Hemisphere within a month of one another in the future, then that would be a major thing,” Linacre said.

The race attracts yachts as small as 30-footers (9 metres) and as big as 100-footers (30 metres), sailed by crews who range from weekend club sailors to full professionals.

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