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WAS 1998 THE MOST DIFFICULT SYDNEY TO HOBART RACE.

Updated: Dec 24, 2019



While the 1998 Sydney to Hobart was the most deadliest Sydney to Hobart yacht race it wasn't the most difficult race, it ranks as the 4th most difficult.


In 1998, at the starters’ gun, 114 yachts took off through Sydney Harbour and out into the Tasman Sea, to make the 628-nautical mile passage to the south-east of Tasmania.


In what became the deadliest incident in Australian sailing history six lives had been lost. Three men, Mike Bannister, Jim Lawler and John Dean, drowned when their life raft failed, after the sinking of their yacht Winston Churchill. Glyn Charles, a former British Olympian, was swept over board from Sword of Orion and perished. Two died on Business Post Naiad, the skipper Bruce Guy, heart attack, and crew member Phil Skeggs who succumbed to injuries suffered when the boat rolled.


More than 50 sailors had to be rescued in extreme conditions.


Bass Strait can be the worst stretch of water ever crossed or it can be a pleasant walk in the park. It's unpredictable, notorious for shipwrecks and a relatively shallow stretch of water that separates southeastern Australia and Tasmania.


While there are lots of discussion around the 1998 S2H race it wasn't the toughest on record. Lets look at the conditions and brutality of four Sydney to Hobart races 1984, 1993, 1998 and 2004 and see how the numbers stack-up.


1984 - THE SECOND MOST DIFFICULT


The 1984 race had 151 starters and only 46 finished the race, that's 30.5% finished the race. The conditions were terrible with the average elapsed time for the fleet being 18.6% worse than normal conditions. According to sailor.com.au the Difficulty Index was 2.339 for 1984, ranked second most difficult.


1993 - THE MOST DIFFICULT RACE EVER


The 1993 race had 104 starters and 38 finished the race, only 36.5% finished the race. The conditions were brutal with the average elapsed time for the fleet being 30.3% worse than normal conditions. According to sailor.com.au the Difficulty Index was 2.421 for 1993, ranked the most difficult race in the history of the Sydney to Hobart.


According to Iain Smith, a crew member on Wild Oats XI, "the 1993 race was generally regarded as the toughest on record. The only difference [to 1998] was that there was fortunately no loss of life that year. There were massive retirements and damage to yachts."


In 1993 an unusually strong low pressure depression of 986 hpa developed stretching down the Queensland coast across the Tasman sea to the south island of New Zealand back across to Tasmania with the centre in Bass Strait.


The winning yacht "Ninety seven" recorded 78 knots (144 km/h) of wind either side of the eye of the low off Gabo Island on the night of the 27th. Dec. [wikipedia]


1998 - THE MOST DEADLIEST, AND THE FOURTH MOST DIFFICULT


The 1998 race had 114 starters and 44 finished the race, only 38.6% finished this infamous race. The conditions were brutal with the average elapsed time for the fleet being 6.2% worse than normal conditions, but the weather system was brutal in its impact. According to sailor.com.au the Difficulty Index was 1.928 for 1998, this race ranked the fourth most difficult. It ranks as the deadliest incident in Australian sailing history.


The 2004 race had 116 starters and 59 finished the race, only 50.9% finished the race. The conditions were brutal with the average elapsed time for the fleet being 21.9% worse than normal conditions. According to sailor.com.au the Difficulty Index was 1.955 for 2004, ranked third most difficult.


THE DATA


The chart below highlights the seven most difficult races in the sydney to hobart they were in order: (1) 1993 (2) 1984 (3) 2004 (4) 1998 (5) 1988 (6) 1997 (8) 2015


For more on the Sailor.com.au Ocean Rating see "HOW THE WORLD'S FIRST SAILOR OCEAN RATING SYSTEM WORKS"



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