- Overall winner: Aera, Nicholas Lykiardopulo, UK
- Line honors: Nicorette, Ludde Ingvall, NSW — 2:16:00:04
It's all over. The last boat to finish in the 2004 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, the Cavalier 975 Gillawa skippered by David Kent from the Canberra Yacht Club, crossed the Derwent River finish line before 8am, January 3, 2005. Of 116 starters on December 26, only 59 yachts completed the course.
The super maxi Skandia capsized in the Tasman Sea late on December 28 after she lost her massive keel. Skipper Grant Wharington and his crew flew into Hobart after taking to liferafts earlier in the day.
The newly launched 90ft (27.3m) yacht Nicorette, skippered by Ludde Ingvall, won the 2004 line honors in the year's Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race which saw the starting fleet of 116 yachts decimated by horrendous weather, gear malfunctions and broken equipment. The Swedish yacht bearing the name Nicorette, which won line honors in the 2000 race and placed second in 2001, was an 80-footer.
Nicorette crossed the finish line shortly after 5.10am, December 29, with an elapsed time for the 2004 race of about 2 days 16 hours 00 minutes 44 seconds. AAPT crossed the finish line just after 11.40am to fill the second placing, followed by Brindabella in the afternoon, third.
The British-registered 55-footer Aera, skippered by Jez Fanstone, won overall handicap honors in the 2004 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, after finishing fourth after Nicorette, AAPT and Brindabella. Aera's overall handicap victory was officially announced before noon on December 31.
Largest fleet in decade
The largest fleet in a decade, comprising 117 yachts from all Australian states and overseas, was confirmed to start on Boxing Day, December 26, in the 60th anniversary Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race in 2004.
Super maxis return
Back to contest the 2004 bluewater classic were the 98ft (30m) super maxis which fought out the 2003 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, Skandia and Konica Minolta (ex Zana). Along with the newly launched 90ft (27.38m) Nicorette, they headed up the boat fleet in the 2004 race.
Gale force winds predicted
With a forecast of extremely unfavorable weather conditions in the course of the race, particularly from Day 2, worries surfaced about a repeat of the disastrous 1998 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race when five boats sank, 66 boats retired from the race, six sailors died, and 55 sailors were taken off their yachts, most by helicopter.
Gale force winds, big seas, biting cold, and even hailstones were all in the weather mix predicted for the 2004 race.
The 41ft Victorian yacht Terra Firma withdrew from the race on Christmas Day, leaving a fleet of 116 boats.
With the starting gun fired at 1.10pm, December 26, Australian eastern daylight saving time, Nicorette was leading out of the Sydney Heads within 15 minutes of the race start, followed by Skandia and Konika Minolta. By 2pm, within an hour of the start, Skandia had wrested the lead from Nicorette and was powering down the coast.
The New South Wales 60-footer Targe withdrew from the race off the Illawarra Coast south of Sydney. By evening of December 26, three of the starters including Targe had withdrawn from the race for one reason or another, the other two being the 45ft Victorian boat Kontrol and the NSW 43-footer Pla Loma.
Duel of the super maxis
By 10 pm, December 26, the lead was being contested by Skandia and Konika Minolta with Nicorette behind them third. Konika Minolta was enjoying a slender lead nine hours 15 minutes after race start.
Dueling super maxis Konika Minolta and Skandia were in the morning of December 27 leading into Bass Strait with the Weather Bureau issuing a gale warning for coastal waters south of Ulladulla on the New South Wales South Coast. At 2.30am Konika Minolta was in first place, Skandia second, followed by Nicorette, third, and AAPT, fourth. Overnight the NSW yachts Wiseman’s Ferry and EZ Street were reported to have withdrawn from the race.
By 3pm, December 27, the number of retirements from the race had reached 12, leaving a fleet of 104 out of the 116 starters on Boxing Day.
And then disaster struck the race leaders.
Next page: Disaster Strikes