Sydney-Hobart crews waiting for results permitted to start race – but must retire if positive

Sydney to Hobart sailors still awaiting their final PCR test results have been given the green light from the Tasmania government to begin the race on Sunday, but will be forced to retire and turn back from the race if positive.

A negative PCR test within 72 hours of arrival is required to enter Tasmania but testing delays in NSW have left sailors still awaiting results.

With a significant number of boats still waiting on final results for crew members, the Tasmania government made the call last night to allow sailors to take part in the race and receive their results while en route to Hobart.

The race begins at 1pm in Sydney Harbour.

Any crew member whose test results fail to come back in time for arrival in Hobart will be required to quarantine until they return a negative test result.

The biggest risk for boats is if a crew member tests positive on the way down. The boat will be forced to retire immediately and will be turned back if still in NSW waters. If in Tasmania waters, the COVID-19 positive sailor will be forced into quarantine immediately.

On the morning of race day, Commodore of race organisers the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Noel Cornish thanked the Tasmania government for shifting the rules under the circumstances.

“We’re very appreciative of that. With the cooperation of the Tasmania Government, we’ve been able to get these boats away,” he said.

Cornish said he did not know the exact number of boats still awaiting results but said it was not an insignificant amount.

“The numbers [of boats still awaiting results] are still significant. It’s not three or four or five, but it’s far better than what it was at lunchtime yesterday,” he said.

“Test results keep flowing in all the time. They were coming back overnight, and they’re still coming in this morning.”

The total fleet currently stands at 89 boats after a number of withdrawals in the last 24 hours.

Jim Cooney, who won the race in 2019 with Comanche, had to withdraw his boat Willow last-minute on Christmas Day after four crew members returned positive tests. Credit:Getty

Jim Cooney, who won the race in 2019 with Comanche, had to withdraw his boat Willow last-minute on Christmas Day after four crew members returned positive tests.

“We’ve been through every feasible option, but we are concerned if we get to Hobart people will become sick on the way,” he said.

“It’s hugely disappointing for everybody. We’ve put a lot into preparing for this race and our crew has come from all different parts of the world.”

The Maverick 49, owned by Quentin Stewart, also withdrew on Saturday due to COVID-19 concerns with Protagonist pulling out early Sunday morning after recording one positive test within the crew.

Min River was also forced to withdraw after its skipper suffered a hand injury.

All boats have been advised they are not to get off their boats after arriving at Hobart.

Crews will be given Rapid Antigen Tests by Sydney to Hobart volunteers with all sailors required to give a negative test before stepping onto Tasmanian land.

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