1998 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race

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1998 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race logo.jpg
54th Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race
Date 26 December 1998 – 3 January 1999
Defender Brindabella
Number of Yachts 115
Coordinates 33°51.35′S 151°12.40′E / 33.85583°S 151.20667°E / -33.85583; 151.20667Coordinates: 33°51.35′S 151°12.40′E / 33.85583°S 151.20667°E / -33.85583; 151.20667-
42°52.7′S 147°19.58′E / 42.8783°S 147.32633°E / -42.8783; 147.32633
Winner Sayonara

The 1998 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race was the 54th annual running of the "blue water classic" Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. It was hosted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia based in Sydney, New South Wales. It was the most disastrous in the race's history, with the loss of six lives and five yachts.[1] 55 sailors were rescued in the largest peacetime search and rescue effort ever seen in Australia.[2]


The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race is an annual event hosted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, starting in Sydney, New South Wales on Boxing Day then heading south through the Tasman Sea, past Bass Strait, into Storm Bay and up the Derwent River, to cross the finish line in Hobart, Tasmania. The race distance is approximately 630 nautical miles (1,170 km).[3]

The race is run in co-operation with the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, and is widely considered to be one of the most difficult yacht races in the world.[4]

1998 Race[edit]

The 1998 race, like every other edition, began on Sydney Harbour, at noon on Boxing Day (26 December 1998), with 115 starters heading south. The yachts ranged in size from the 24.1 metres (79 ft) Sayonara to the 10.1 metres (33 ft) Berrimilla.[5] A favourable current running south at 4 knots with strengthening north to north-easterly winds of generally 25-35 knots prevailing off the NSW southern coast allowed a record-breaking dash south down the Australian East Coast.[1] By early morning on 27 December, the lead yachts entered Bass Strait and began to encounter winds in excess of 40 knots.[6] Of the 115 boats which started, 71 retired and 44 yachts completed the race.[1]

Storm and rescue[edit]

On the 2nd day of the race (27 December)[7] severe weather conditions struck the fleet off the south-eastern Australian coast. An unusually strong low pressure depression developed which resulted in unseasonal mid-summer snow across parts of south-east Australia. The weather system built into an exceptionally strong storm with winds in excess of 65 knots (+32.8 m/s, +118 km/h, +73 mph, Force 12)[8] and gusts to 80 knots.[9] The rising storm caused the sinking of five boats, seven were abandoned and 55 other sailors had to be rescued from their yachts by ships and helicopters.[10] Overall, the rescue efforts involved 35 military and civilian aircraft and 27 Royal Australian Navy vessels, and proved to be Australia's largest ever peacetime rescue operation.[2]


The six sailors who died were: Phillip Charles Skeggs (Business Post Naiad, drowned, 27 December 1998); Bruce Raymond Guy (Business Post Naiad, heart attack, 27 December 1998); John Dean, James Lawler and Michael Bannister (Winston Churchill, all drowned, 28 December 1998); and Glyn Charles (Sword of Orion, drowned, 27 December 1998).[11]


CYCA report[edit]

On 1 June 1999 the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia released the Report, Findings and Recommendations of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race Review Committee.[12] The report listed a multitude of recommendations[13] and resulted in changes both for future Sydney to Hobart races and yachting events worldwide.[14]

Coroner's inquest[edit]

A coroner's inquest into the deaths was critical of both the race management at the time and the Bureau of Meteorology.[15]

The results of the inquest were released on 12 December 2000, NSW coroner John Abernethy finding that the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia had "abdicated its responsibility to manage the race". He wrote: "From what I have read and heard, it is clear to me that during this crucial time the race management team played the role of observers rather than managers and that was simply not good enough."[16] But he acknowledged the club's actions to upgrade safety precautions and sailor qualifications.[17]

Abernethy also criticised the Bureau for making insufficient efforts to inform race officials of a dramatically upgraded weather forecast about the severe storm developing south of Eden, when it was common public knowledge the race was scheduled to begin.[18] As a remedial measure, he required the Bureau to add maximum wind gust speed and wave height to its forecasts.[19]

The day after the coroner's findings, the club's race director, Phil Thompson, resigned his position.[15] According to the coroner's report, "Mr Thompson's inability to appreciate the problems when they arose and his inability to appreciate them at the time of giving his evidence causes me concern that (he) may not appreciate such problems as they arise in the future."[20]

1998 fleet[edit]

115 yachts registered to begin the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Yacht race. They were:[21]

Yacht Nation Owner Skipper Launch Year Line Honours Position and Finishing Time
ABN AMRO Challenge Ray Roberts
Adiago Peter Williams
Aera Nick Lykiardopulo
AFR Midnight Rambler Edward Psaltis / Bob Thomas
Alexander of Creswell Australia W. Hellwig Royal Australian Navy
Allusive John Smith
Antipodes Sydney Australia Geoff Hill Geoff Hill
Antuka Raymond Semmens Raymond Semmens
Aspect Computing D. Pescud
Assassin R. Roberts R. Roberts
Assassin R. Crawford
Atara H. Cudmore / J. Storey
Aurora Jim Holly
Ausmaid G. Gjergja
Avanti Chris Mooney / John Mooney
B52 Wayne Miller Wayne Miller
Bacardi P. Cole 1978
Berrimilla Alex Whitworth Alex Whitworth 1977
Bin Rouge D Hodgkinson Christopher Bowling
Bobsled P. White G. Bush / N. Feros
Boomaroo Morse Fans J. McIntosh J. McIntosh
Breakaway K. McDonald
Bright Morning Star Hugh Treharne I. Treharne 1986
Brindabella Australia George Snow George Snow 1993
Business Post Naiad Australia Bruce Guy† Bruce Guy† RETIRED (Abandoned)
Canon Maris Australia Ian Kiernan Ian Kiernan
Challenge Again
Dixie Chicken
Doctel Rager
Elysion Blue
Foxtel Titan Ford
Gundy Grey

Robert Green

Helsal II Australia Keith Flint Keith Flint 1979
Henry Kendall Akubra
Hi Flyer PNG
Hogsbreath Witchdoctor
Indian Pacific
Industrial Quest
Inner Circle
Jack Guy
King Billy
Komatsu Blue Lady
Lady Penryhn
Liquid Asset
Maglieri Wines
Margaret Rintoul II
Mark Twain
Mercedes IV 1974
Midnight Special Peter Baynes P Baynes
Miintinta Brian Emerson B Emerson
Misty Australia Brian Clague Brian Clague 1973 Completed last boat in fleet 42nd Won Class
Morning Tide A Fenwick J Davern
Nattel Adrenalin David Bennett D Bennett
New Horizons
Ninety Seven
Not Negotiable Australia Michael Dolphin Michael Dolphin 1990 Retired (Eden)
Ocean Designs Australia S. Bean Retired (Eden)
Outlaw Australia Alan Quick Alan Quick Retired in Bass Strait(Bermagui)
Rapscallion Team Syntegra Australia Dick Voorderhake
Red Jacket
Relish IV
Ruff 'N Tumble
Sayonara United States Larry Ellison Larry Ellison
Sea Jay
Secret Men's Business
Sharp Hawk
She II
She's Apples Two
Solo Globe Challenger
Southerly Don Mickelborough Don Mickelborough Retired (Eden)
Spirit of Downunder
Sword of Orion
T42 Solandra
Tartan Australia Mark Ballard Mark Ballard Retired (Eden)
Team Jaguar Infinity
Terra Firma
Tilting At Windmills
Trust Bank Hummingbird
Unipro Ocean Road Australia K. Simpson K. Simpson
Vagrant Arch Waters A Waters
Valheru Australia
VC Offshore Stand Aside
Veto Australia Max Crisp, Mike Crisp, Graham Brown Graham Brown 1979 Retired, returned to Sydney.
Waitangi II
Wide Load
Wild One Australia Co-owner Barry Main Barry Main PHS All 16th, Div A 10th, line honours 35th
Wild Thing Australia
Winston Churchill Australia Richard Winning Richard Winning Retired (sunk)
Zeus II


Line Honours results (Top 10)[22][edit]

Position Sail Number Yacht State/Country Yacht Type LOA
Skipper Elapsed Time
1 US17 Sayonara USA Farr ILC Maxi 24.13 Larry Ellison 2:19:03:32
2 C1 Brindabella NSW Jutson 79 24.07 George Snow 2:21:55:06
3 YC1000 Ausmaid SA Farr 47 14.24 Kevan Pearce 3:06:02:29
4 AUS70 Ragamuffin NSW Farr 50 15.15 Syd Fischer 3:06:11:29
5 COK1 Nokia CI Farr Ketch Maxi 25.20 David Witt 3:09:19:00
6 SM1 Fudge VIC Elliot 56 17.07 Peter Hansen 3:11:00:26
7 6606 Quest NSW Nelson Marek 46 14.12 Bob Steel 3:14:41:28
8 9090 Industrial Quest QLD Nelson Marek 43 13.11 Kevin Miller 3:14:58:46
9 4826 Aspect Computing NSW Radford 16.5 Sloop 16.50 David Pescud 3:15:28:24
10 8338 AFR Midnight Rambler NSW Hick 35 10.66 Ed Psaltis
Bob Thomas

Handicap results (IMS Top 10)[23][edit]

Position Sail Number Yacht State/Country Yacht Type LOA
Skipper Corrected Time
1 8338 AFR Midnight Rambler NSW Hick 35 10.66 Ed Psaltis
Bob Thomas
2 YC1000 Ausmaid SA Farr 47 14.24 Kevan Pearce 2:14:41:54
3 AUS70 Ragamuffin NSW Farr 50 15.15 Syd Fischer 2:16:18:17
4 9090 Industrial Quest QLD Nelson Marek 43 13.11 Kevin Miller 2:18:31:49
5 US17 Sayonara USA Farr ILC Maxi 24.13 Larry Ellison 2:19:03:32
6 IRL8000 Atara NSW Lyons 43 13.00 Roger Hickman 2:19:32:48
7 6606 Quest NSW Nelson Marek 46 14.12 Bob Steel 2:20:19:17
8 2170 Margaret Rintoul II NSW Sparkman & Stephens 48 14.63 Richard Purcell 2:20:40:54
9 C1 Brindabella NSW Jutson 79 24.07 George Snow 2:21:05:36
10 SM377 Bacardi VIC Peterson 44 13.41 Graeme Ainley
John Williams

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "1998 Race and Weather". Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  2. ^ a b Mundle, Rob (2008). Fatal Storm: the 54th Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. Harper Collins. p. xv. ISBN 9780732288341. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  3. ^ "Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race". About. Archived from the original on 12 July 2014. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
  4. ^ "Tough legacy of a Sydney classic". BBC News. 29 December 2001. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  5. ^ Bruce, Peter (2016). Heavy Weather Sailing (7th ed.). Bloomsbury. pp. 35–37. ISBN 9781472928207. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  6. ^ Knecht, Bruce (2001). The Proving Ground. Fourth Estate (London). p. 97. ISBN 1-84115-265-X. Retrieved 18 July 2017.
  7. ^ Mundle 2008, p. 99.
  8. ^ Lawrence, Mark. "Crew "Not Negotiable" (Helmsman)". Equipped To Survive: NSW State Coroner's inquest - 1998 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race - Volume 9 - Yachts without Incidents. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  9. ^ Mundle 2008, p. 116.
  10. ^ Knecht 2001, p. 266.
  11. ^ Abernathy, John (2000). "Coroner's Findings NSW State Coroner's Inquest 1998 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race" (PDF): 16–17. Retrieved 26 July 2017. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ Mundle 2008, p. 343.
  13. ^ Mundle 2008, pp. 343-346.
  14. ^ Mundle 2008, pp. 346-349.
  15. ^ a b 1998 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race - The Tragedy of Deaths at Sea
  16. ^ Abernethy 2000, p. 118.
  17. ^ Abernethy 2000, p. 10.
  18. ^ Abernethy 2000, pp. 124-125.
  19. ^ Abernethy 2000, p. 296.
  20. ^ Abernethy 2000, p. 139.
  21. ^ "The Yachts: 1998". Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  22. ^ "Results - 1998 Race - Line honours". Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  23. ^ "Results - 1998 Race - IMS All". Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. Retrieved 26 July 2017.

External links[edit]