One of the world’s three great ocean sailing competitions, the annual 600-mile race from Sydney, Australia, to Hobart, Tasmania, pits sailboats against the notoriously rough waters of Bass Strait and the Tasman Sea.
The 115 boats leaving Sydney Harbor on December 26, 1998, expected rough weather, but the gale that caught the boats well at sea in the predawn hours of December 27 was anything but routine. The freak, unseasonal storm brought hurricane-strength winds, waves six stories high, and the worst sailing disaster in recent history. Seven boats were abandoned at sea and five sank. Fifty-seven sailors were plucked from the decks of broken boats or from the sea itself under impossible conditions. Six sailors died.