An elegant gaff-rigged cutter on which champagne corks are frequently heard to pop; a battered, steel-hulled cutter which has sailed among the icebergs of Antarctica; a stoutly-built, double-ended cutter now cruising the Caribbean; a sloop owned and skippered by a yachtsman who was to become Prime Minister of England; maxi yachts from Australia, America, New Zealand, South Africa, Germany and Denmark; a tiny half tonner from Tasmania with a rather suggestive insignia on its transom.
Then there's been a state-of-the-art ocean racer developed from America's Cup technology, a one-off little sloop from an Aussie designer, the latest design for an IMS ocean racer, and a round-the-world 60-footer, the maximum 100ft length Reichel/Pugh maxi and the a classic Sparkman & Stephens 47 winning the Tattersalls Cup for the third time.
What do these yachts of widely varying age, size, shape, construction and rig have in common?
They have all achieved a place in Australian and international yachting history by taking line honours or winning overall handicap honours on corrected time in Australia's most famous ocean race, the annual Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
Now in its 72nd year, the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race ranks in world status with the Rolex Fastnet Race in England and the Newport to Bermuda Race in the USA.
The yachts mentioned above - Nerida, Solo, Freya, Morning Cloud, Kialoa, New Zealand Endeavour (called Tasmania for the 50th Sydney to Hobart in 1994), Ragamuffin, Morning Glory, Screw Loose, Brindabella, Kialio, Ondine and Sayonara, Terra Firma, AFR Midnight Rambler, Yendys, Nokia, Wild Oats XI and Love & War are just a few of the great ocean racing yachts whose names are inscribed on the Sydney Hobart Honour Roll at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's clubhouse at Rushcutters Bay in Sydney.
The great race south, at 628 nautical miles, starts from Sydney Harbour at 1.00pm on Boxing Day, December 26.
Over the past 70 years, the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has become an icon of Australia's summer sport, ranking in public interest with such national events as the Melbourne Cup horse race, the Davis Cup tennis and the cricket tests between Australia and England.
No yachting event in the world attracts such huge media coverage - except, of course, the America's Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race - than does the start on Sydney Harbour. And they only happen every four or five years
By Peter Campbell