Sydney to Hobart organisers insist the show will go on despite doubts being raised about the 2020 yacht race following a COVID-19 outbreak on Sydney’s northern beaches.
By Friday morning the cluster of cases had grown to 28, prompting Tasmania to close borders to anyone who lives or has visited the hot spot since December 11.
The decision will exclude a number of sailors who reside in the area from the time-honoured race, due to start on Boxing Day.
But, after a series of meetings on Friday, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) said the race would be going ahead.
“The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) Board met this evening to discuss the evolving COVID-19 situation in NSW. The CYCA is continuing to plan for the running of the 2020 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race,” it said in a statement.
“The CYCA is closely monitoring the NSW Government latest COVID-19 news and updates and the Tasmanian Government COVID-19 important community updates and continues to work specifically with the Tasmania Department of Health.
“The CYCA will put in place all required measures to ensure a COVIDSafe Race. This may include last-minute changes to the shoreside aspect of the Race in Sydney and specifically on arrival in Hobart.”
On Friday afternoon Tasmanian premier Peter Gutwein said he was leaving the decision in the hands of race organisers.
“They will need to determine whether they have a fleet of suitable size, but those matters will be worked through with them and we’ll update as soon as we have a clearer picture of it,” he said.
“Whether you’re coming on a yacht or a plane or a boat, you’re coming into Tasmania under the rules that apply at that particular time.”
It’s the latest complication for the historical race, which has run for the past 75 years consecutively.
Around 100 entries were expected for this year’s event, but numbers had dropped back to 75 as travel restrictions and economic circumstances impact on participants from around the world.
Already strict COVID-19 protocols were to be in place for crews arriving in Hobart, with everyone to be screened for symptoms by Tasmanian health and biosecurity experts.
“As always the safety of our competitors, members, guests, volunteers and people remains our utmost priority as well as the safety of NSW and Tasmanian citizens. The club will follow all guidelines and regulations issued by the NSW or Tasmanian Government,” the CYCA statement continued.
The CYCA said it would provide another update on the situation at 9am (AEDT) on Saturday.