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One of the world's three great ocean sailing competitions, the annual 630-mile race from Sydney, Australia, to Hobart, Tasmania, pits sailboats against the notoriously rough waters of Bass Strait and the Tasman Sea. Veterans say this race tests boats, gear, and crews more severely even than the Whitbread Round the World Race. The 115 boats leaving Sydney Harbor on Boxing Day (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. A freak, unseasonal storm, it 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 rescued, plucked from the decks of broken boats or from the sea itself under impossible conditions. Six sailors died.
Here is the story of the 1998 Sydney - Hobart disaster as only Rob Mundle could have written it. An Australian journalist and sailor who has covered the Sydney - Hobart thirty times and participated three times, Mundle knew many of the participants. He knew the rescuers. Good friends of his were among the dead. He even reported the unfolding drama to the Australian television audience. Later, in search of the deeper story, he interviewed 124 survivors, family members, rescuers, race officials, and crew members.