Melbourne to Hobart (Westcoaster) Yacht race

About the Race

Distance:  440 Nautical miles                              


Safety Category:     2  
Start Location: Portsea pier  
Start Time:  TBA AEDT  
Start Date: Wednesday, 27 December, 2017  
Race Record:

1d 17h 28m 59s 

by SHORTWAVE in 2008


One of Australia’s most challenging ocean races, the Melbourne to Hobart starts from Portsea Pier on 27th December each year.  The course takes the competitors out of Port Phillip Bay, across Bass Strait, travelling down the rugged West Coast of Tasmania and rounding the southernmost tip of Australia before heading up the Derwent River to the finish in the Derwent River in Hobart.  This is a race run for yachties by yachties. It presents an amazing challenge to the participants and is run with a level of spirit and camaraderie not often seen. Its not about the chequebook, its more about great sailors working hard to earn the right to wear the yellow cap of a Westcoast racer.

The 440 nautical mile blue-water classic Melbourne to Hobart Yacht Race was the brainchild of Stan Gibson from Hobson’s Bay Yacht Club in Melbourne and Dr Joe Cannon at Derwent Sailing Squadron in Hobart. It was intended as an alternative for Victorian and South Australian sailors who wanted to be in Hobart for the new year celebrations but did not want the logistical hassle of getting the yacht up to Sydney to compete in the Sydney to Hobart.

Initially, the new race received widespread criticism because of the fearsome reputation of the west coast of Tasmania. Stan Gibson had done a study of the weather patterns at the time and convinced critics that it was not as dangerous as initially believed in its inaugural year of 1972.  Despite the early reservations, the race has proven to have an enviable safety record due largely to the careful management and education programs put in place by the ORCV, a leader in ocean racing safety in Australia.

The race presents in five parts, each with its own challenges. The Bass Strait crossing to the gap between King Island and the north west corner, the north west corner (Cape Grim) to the South West Cape (the west coast), the South West Cape and Maatsuyker Island to Whale Head (the south coast), Whale Head across the bottom of Bruny Island and into Storm Bay and finally the Derwent into Hobart.  The race starts in Bass Strait, a notorious piece of water which often experiences strong South Westerlies at this time of year. Add to this the fact that there are some tricky currents, especially towards the gap between King Island and the North West corner. Most navigators concentrate on when they will arrive at the gap and where they should pass through it. This can significantly affect a yacht’s position going into the coast.

The West Coast proper starts at Cape Grim. Although the wind is often from the West or North West, there are many challenges in this section. This is a wild and beautiful part of the world not seen by many sailors. Below Maquarie Harbour, we leave the last vestiges of civilisation behind and don’t rejoin them until we reach Bruny Island.  The South Coast can often be the highlight of the trip. The South West Cape and the South Coast are some of the most beautiful areas of the world and the sail across gives you a view of those from a perspective rarely granted to the land based bush walker. However there can be a cost as you are sailing on the edge of the Southern Ocean with strong Westerlies driving the yachts hard from behind and raising massive swells. The race goes south of Maatsuyker Island, a mark of the course and the furthest South the fleet goes. After that there is a feeling that the worst is over and you are heading north again.

Past Whale Head, the end of the South Coast, the fleet heads east north east around Bruny Island and the Friars. Some yachts with local knowledge have been known to go through the Friars but most tend to go around and avoid tempting fate. Past the Friars and the yachts enter Storm Bay proper. At this stage you often gain sight of yachts in the other races. Tactics vary according to the wind. Most yachts will try and keep clear of the high headlands along Bruny Island which can often throw wind shadows.  The race can be won or lost on the fickle section up the Derwent River. Ideally no one wants to be caught in the river at nightfall. Local knowledge can be so valuable here as the Derwent offers the experience of complex wind patterns and mechanisms.

The warmest of welcomes awaits the finishers at the Elizabeth Street Pier. It is a point of honour in this race that no yacht finishes unheralded and many a yachty has been roused from the local watering holes or comfy berth to meet late night or early morning finishers. Somehow a cold slab is always produced no matter what the time and the previous finishers raise three cheers in honour of the crew. 

The Melbourne to Hobart Westcoaster is part of the 3 Race Sovereign Series which includes the ORCV Cock of the Bay and DSS King of the Derwent races.

Race History

 Year  IRC  AMS  PHS  Line DHD
2016   Cadibarra 8 (R420) - Paul Roberts Cadibarra 8 (R420) - Paul Roberts Cadibarra 8 (R420) - Paul Roberts Cadibarra 8 (R420) - Paul Roberts Lord Jiminy (Sm119) - Chris Barlow
2015 eXtasea (G4646R) - Paul Buchholz eXtasea (G4646R) - Paul Buchholz eXtasea (G4646R) - Paul Buchholz eXtasea (G4646R) - Paul Buchholz  
2014 Seduction (M406) - Richard Nichols Seduction (M406) - Richard Nichols Seduction (M406) - Richard Nichols Spirit of Downunder (R1200) - Lawrence Ford  
2013 eXtasea (G4646R) - Paul Buchholz Tevake II (H101) - Angus Fletcher Tevake II (H101) - Angus Fletcher eXtasea (G4646R) - Paul Buchholz  
2012 Bandit (Sm4040) - Ashley Trebilcock Tevake II (H101) - Angus Fletcher Tevake II (H101) - Angus Fletcher eXtasea (G4646R) - Paul Buchholz  
2011 eXtasea (G4646R) - Paul Buchholz Alien (R880) - Justin Brennan Alien (R880) - Justin Brennan eXtasea (G4646R) - Paul Buchholz  
2010 Enchantress (SA346) - John Muirhead Enchantress (SA346) - John Muirhead Enchantress (SA346) - John Muirhead Gusto (B660) - Brian Pattinson  
2009 Jazz Player (S390) - Andrew Lawrence Alien (R880) - Justin Brennan Jazz Player (S390) - Andrew Lawrence Jazz Player (S390) - Andrew Lawrence  
2008 Shortwave (52052) - Mathew Short Tevake II (H101) - Angus Fletcher Spirit of Downunder (R1200) - Laurie Ford Shortwave (52052) - Mathew Short  

Not run - See Eastcoaster

Not run - See Eastcoaster

Not run - See Eastcoaster

Not run - See Eastcoaster

2006 A Crewed Interest - Eddie Ragauskas/Martin Vaughan A Crewed Interest - Eddie Ragauskas/Martin Vaughan A Crewed Interest - Eddie Ragauskas/Martin Vaughan No Fearr - Matthew Hannaford  
2005 Quetzalcoatl - Joshua Ey Tevake II - Angus Fletcher By Order of the Secretary - George Shaw Helsal II - Bill Rawson  
2004 Under Capricorn - Phil Bedlington Under Capricorn - Phil Bedlington Under Capricorn - Phil Bedlington Quetzalcoatl - Joshua Ey  
2003 Magazan 53 - Gary Rowswell Wavelength - John McGill Rumbeat - Geoff Henderson Indec Merit - David Gotze/Ian Treleaven  


Race History - Eastcoaster

In 2007, to honour the 100th anniversary of the first sailing of the Rudder Cup, the ORCV broke with a 35 year tradition by redirecting the course for the Westcoaster to follow the Melbourne to Launceston course to their finish line at Low Head near the mouth of the Tamar River and on to Hobart, but via the East Coast of Tasmania.  This race proved a great success, with many competitors calling for the race to be repeated.  The subsequent Eastcoaster races were quite tactical, with a course around the top of Flinder Island and the current effects there.  The 2014 race was the last to be held due to dropping competitor numbers, ORCV decided to focus on the Westcoaster race.

Goldfinger holds the race record in 2012, 2d 00:08:07.

 Year  IRC  AMS  PHS  Line DHD
2014   Cartouche (B10) - Steven Fahey Dry White (Sm401) - Simon Dryden XLR8 (Sm460) - Ray Shaw XLR8 (Sm460) - Ray Shaw  
2013 Merlion (H8118) - Eddie Mackevicius Escapade (H538) - Robert Bradley Merlion (H8118) - Eddie Mackevicius XLR8 (Sm460) - Ray Shaw  
2012 Goldfinger (Sm8880) - Peter Blake/Kate Mitchell Deja Vu (R166) - Steven Carey Matrix (S54) - David Sudano Goldfinger (Sm8880) - Peter Blake/Kate Mitchell  
2011 Veloce (Sm602) - Phil Simpfendorfer White Noise (Sm3535) - Jason Close White Noise (Sm3535) - Jason Close Gusto (B660) - Brian Pattinson  
2010 Veloce (Sm602) - Phil Simpfendorfer Wild Side (Sm360) - Martin Vaughan Veloce (Sm602) - Phil Simpfendorfer Goldfinger (Sm8880) - Peter Blake  
2009 Veloce (Sm602) - Phil Simpfendorfer Ingenue (B88) - Rosie Colahan Ingenue (B88) - Rosie Colahan Ocean Skins (G421) - Tony Fowler  
2008 Shamrock (M330) - Tony Donnellan Alien (R880) - Justin Brennan Shamrock (M330) - Tony Donnellan Shamrock (M330) - Tony Donnellan  


Archie - Sally Rattle

Vapour Trail - Shane La Peyre/Albert Doggett Archie - Sally Rattle eXtasea (G4646R) - Paul Buchholz By Order of the Secretary - George Shaw