German boat Morning Glory (left) and Australian boat Condor jockey for position in 1996.
German boat Morning Glory (left) and Australian boat Condor jockey for position in 1996. RICK RYCROFT

How Morning Glory ushered in a new dawn in race

WHEN German maxi Morning Glory sailed up the Derwent under the cover of darkness to break the long-standing Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race line honours record in 1996, it was the start of a new era.

Lightweight, super-fast, super-expensive boats were now the weapon of choice for skippers going for glory.

It had taken 21 years for Kialoa's 1975 record to tumble.

German technology billionaire Hasso Plattner got the job done, setting the new mark at two days, 14 hours, seven minutes, 10 seconds.

The purple-hulled maxi, boasting America's Cup technology, also claimed the $300,000 bounty on the record - which the mega-rich skipper distributed among his crew.

"I've never seen such a reception,” Plattner said as thousands greeted Morning Glory's arrival on the Hobart waterfront.

In the 20 years since, the record has fallen three more times - once by an international upstart in incredibly favourable conditions and twice more by an amazing Australian supermaxi.

Every yacht in the fleet this year will be hoping - counting on - getting to Hobart faster than Rani did in 1945.

The inaugural race winner, which some thought was lost at sea in a storm, covered the distance in six days, 14 hours, 22 minutes.

Since Rani, the race record has fallen 11 times - five times by two boats, and four times to overseas invaders (two US, one German, one Danish).

In 1962, New York shipping magnate Sumner "Huey” Long became the first international skipper to break the record when he sailed Ondine to Hobart in just over three days.

That mark stood for 11 years until Sydney surgeon Tony Fisher did the unthinkable - built a concrete yacht and sailed it to line honours and a new race record. Helsal was fast, earning it the nickname the "Flying Footpath”.

"I was told we could build it out of concrete and it wouldn't be that heavy, and concrete lasts forever and no worms eat it,” Fisher said.

Kialoa's victory in 1975 stands out as one of the finest after the twin-masted US beauty flew down Tasmania's east coast with its red, white and blue spinnakers flying proudly.

After Morning Glory bettered Kialoa's mark, another international broke it three years later.

Nokia was the first yacht to break the two-day barrier. Water coming over the deck was so fierce that the crew wore ski goggles.

Nokia's record stood until Aussie wine billionaire Bob Oatley launched a legend, Wild Oats XI. The supermaxi broke the record out of the box in 2005. Oats took an hour off Nokia's mark and in 2012 set the mark that stands today.

It is only a matter of time until it falls.