Coming up: Sydney-Hobart 2019

Arrival to the coast of Tasmania, during my last Sydney-Hobart.
This will be my second Rolex Sydney to Hobart Ocean Race. Here is some info about what's going to happen and how!

Why is Sydney-Hobart so special? Well, it's considered to be one of the biggest and toughest sailing races. I've summed up the dangers previously here. This year is special because I'm competing on the helm. Last time I competed on the helm with the same boat, we won 1st place in both divisions we were competing in, so of course my hopes are high!

The boat I am racing on is called Ocean Gem, sail number 8810. It's a Beneteau 445 owned by David Hows, a highly competent and competitive sailing addict. We will be 11 in total on board. This will be my second Sydney to Hobart race - last time I was on trimming, but this time I will be helming, and of course doing any other tasks needed. 

Last time's Sydney-Hobart Ocean Gem crew. I'm the one with the Scandinavian winter colored legs
The official RSHYR site has a lot of info about the race, the boats and most of everything. This year there are very many competitors because of the race anniversary. You can follow the boats live here: https://www.rolexsydneyhobart.com/tracker 

Originally, there were 170 boats that were partaking, but less than 160 are making it to the start line. There are so many regulations, requirements and rules, and also many things that can happen in the final days, preventing the boats from starting. So the sole fact that you made it to the starting line is a merit in itself. Then, there will be boats that will not make it to the finish line. On a good year, that will be 10%. On a bad year, 30-50%...

Ocean Gem can always be tracked here together with current wind situation - sometimes there are messages and updates from the boat. Race results are found here, on the official site. This year, it's forbidden to share imagery from the start on social media. The start will be aired on Australian TV - and probably somewhere on the official site.

We are racing in following divisions:
  • IRC div 7
  • ORCi div 5
  • IRC veterans
Line Honors are not worth checking because a lot of competitors have much larger and faster boats. We are hoping to score high in our divisions instead, winning on handicap and beating others within the same boat segment.

Last Sydney-Hobart, at the Yacht club after the Race briefing, before the start.
The race starts on 26/12, at 3 am Swedish time, or at 13 Sydney time. A lot of people ask how long the sailing will take. Well, if you knew that, then it wouldn't be worth racing, right? It all depends on how well you manage to perform, your sailing skills, the weather and wind, and how you handle all of the unexpected. But to give you a heads-up, we hope to arrive to Tasmania before the next year!

The weather forecasts show a lot of wind changes, we may be experiencing everything from 0 knots to 40+ knots. It's all about where we are going to be during different weather changes, and tactics will play a huge role. Wind changes mean sail changes, which in turn means very little sleep. Hope that everyone will be able to keep their energy levels high, and carry through with attention to details. Last time I raced on Ocean Gem we won 1st place in our divisions, with a margin of just a few minutes (listen to the podcast here, episode 80). This shows how small things can add up to make a difference between winning and not.

Before my first Sydney-Hobart, I wrote a bit about the weather. The toughest time for me as a competitor is actually 2-4 weeks before the race. You start looking at the weather, and looking for clues for a dramatic storm. It's a bit nerve-wrecking not to know. It's better to know outright that you'll be in a severe storm, and prepare for that, than not know and be worried.

Great weather with some wind and waves, my last Sydney-Hobart race.
In fact, you can never tell what the weather is going to be like before just a couple of days prior to the race - or in Tasman regions, at the time of the sailing. There can be sudden Antarctic wind gusts coming through, weather changing dramatically in all directions, so you bever know until the weather actually is there. Another factor is that there are fires in Australia, and the smoke seems to be affecting the weather so it does not follow the predicted models like it usually does. Last time, there were fires in the US, and I wrote a bit on that topic. Last summer, Sweden was affected by forest fires. Now it's Australia. What is known however, is that the race start will not be affected by the smoke, because the wind will not come from the land. Otherwise,the race might have gotten postponed, which has happened recently with other sailing races.

There is no race like another, and the only thing you know is that some things will not go as planned. What matters is not the absence of mistakes and misfortunes, of course you should work hard on risk mitigation - but rather how you solve them. The ability to always act in a constructive way, even in a crisis, is key to great results. Just like with everything else in life.

Climbing Ocean Gem's mast as I sailed over Tasman Sea with them this Spring.
I'm already flying off to Australia as I am writing this, sitting at an airport. For Christmas, I will do some mountaineering. Did you know that Australia's highest peak is included in the original 7 Summits list? It should not be challenging compared to other peaks I've successfully attempted. But now, a front with winds and precipitation is coming through on the 24th, so the conditions will not be for a Sunday walk exactly. On the other hand, I never choose the easy mode. It will be fun.

See you soon, and have a great midwinter solstice, good Yule, merry Christmas and happy holidays!