A Yacht Race in the Tasman Sea

The World
One of the top international yacht races is about to get under way in Australia. Crews have come from as far as the US, Hong Kong and France, but most of them hail from down under. The race begins in Sydney Harbor the day after Christmas. A cannon is fired at 1 o'clock to signal the start of the race and the yachts set off for the Tasman Sea. It is a 600-plus nautical mile dash through the wind and waters off the southeast coast of Australia. And for the Geo Quiz we are looking for the historic port city of Tasmania where the yachts are heading. The Tasmanian port city of Hobart is the answer to the Geo Quiz. Race organizers say the eurozone crisis is making it hard for several international teams to find sponsors. This year only six foreign-owned yachts are competing making it the lowest foreign contingent ever. Phil Mercer reports. Decks are being scrubbed and sails inspected as final preparations are made for one of international sailing's toughest ocean events; the 628-nautical mile dash down eastern Australia from Sydney to the island state of Tasmania. It's a grueling race; in 1998, six sailors died when wild storms battered the fleet. Still, it's one of the most anticipated events on Australia's sporting calendar. This year's race may be diminished, though. It's taking a hit from the European economic crisis. Garry Linacre, commodore of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, which organizes the annual event, said the financial uncertainty has forced several international teams to pull out. "We don't have nearly as many European visitors as we would normally have," Linacre said. "I think people are just looking at the moment at their expenditure and not possibly committing as much." Organizers have tried to attract more boats from Asia, but most of this year's entrants are Australian. That includes Jessica Watson. A year and a half ago, the Australian teenager became the youngest person to sail solo around the world. Watson is now 18 and she's set to captain the youngest crew ever to compete in the blue water classic, with the help of a lot of sponsors. "Sailing is a rather expensive thing to be doing," Watson said. "So we have been incredibly lucky. We have an amazing team of sponsors on board." Applications for this year's race closed at the end of November, but more than a dozen of the 100 entrants have withdrawn since then, many because of financial problems. Garry Linacre said this year, there will only be one competitor from the US. "Rives Potts the Rear Commodore of the Newark Yacht Club has brought his own boat," Linacre said. "His son and his nephew sailed it here with a group of friends from America and they are the only American boat we've got this year, which is unusual. We have a much smaller international contingent and I think that is to do with this infamous global financial situation."