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Fatal Storm: The Inside Story of the Tragic Sydney-Hobart Race

Fatal Storm: The Inside Story of the Tragic Sydney-Hobart Race

     I clearly remember Rob Mundle’s solemn news on his late-night Sydney to Hobart race update on television on December 26, 1998. He said he had spoken with meteorologist Roger Badham and reported the Sydney to Hobart race fleet, which was then flying down the NSW coast, could find themselves sailing into a severe depression that was forming in Bass Strait. It had the credentials of a cyclone, but worse still, the westerly winds it would generate would be in the opposite direction to the strong current.

     I knew that could only mean huge waves and horrific sailing conditions. My mind immediately went back to August 1979 when I was the helmsman on the Australian Admiral’s Cup yacht, Impetuous, in the disastrous Fastnet Race out of Cowes, England. That race claimed the lives of 15 fellow yachtsmen. After we rounded Lands End – the south-west tip of England – we received a weather forecast saying we could “expect a north-westerly change with wind gusts of 30 to 40 knots”. The first gusts, which came in at around 10pm, were at 60 knots. They later rose to 80 knots.

     It was always known that the ultimate storm might be delivered to the Sydney to Hobart yacht race one day. And that is exactly what happened in the 54th staging of the classic.

     Since its inception in 1945 the race has stood as an Australian sporting icon. Each year, from the start on Boxing Day, December 26, until the yachts reach the finish line 630 nautical miles away, Australians have devoured news of its progress via television, newspapers and radio.

     To create a pdf book of this magnitude in just 16 weeks was nothing short of a massive effort that I could not have completed alone.

     There are many people to whom I am deeply indebted, none more so than the large number of sailors, search and rescue participants, families, friends, and race officials who committed time to telling their story.

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