Legacy of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart tragedy
The tragic lessons learnt from the deadly 1998 Sydney to Hobart race potentially saved the lives of other men and women who have sailed in it since, according to leading sailors and officials.
Sweeping changes were introduced after the race, which marks its 20th anniversary this Boxing Day, with a coronial inquiry completed in 2000.
The former Commodore of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia and president of Australian Sailing, Matt Allen, says the Sydney to Hobart now boasts the strictest safety rules of any like race in the world.
The veteran ocean racer also believes if 1998 conditions were forecast again, the race would not start.
"The CYCA has the ability to delay the start of the race and there is no doubt in my mind we'd all get delayed,'' he said. "It will happen at some stage.
"If '98 was happening again now, we would have the weather (forecast) before the start and the race would have been postponed.''
Allen says the annual trek south boasts some of the strictest safety procedures and rules in the world and that has been a lasting legacy of the 1998 tragedy.
"Obviously a lot of the lessons learned from improved safety in the Sydney to Hobart and improved safety around the world,'' Allen said.
"Offshore regulations for the entire world were changed after the race.
"The emergency procedures and management for the race was totally rewritten from start to finish.
"There was a change in culture that occurred.
"The Safety and Sea Survival Course was designed by the CYCA and is now a global course.
"It's a legacy to the tragedy we are proud of, a course for people around the world on safety, flares, life jackets etc."
Allen, who won the Sydney to Hobart overall last year on Ichi Ban and is contesting his 29th race south on Boxing Day, said major improvements in technology, culture and forecasting in the intervening years has also shored up the safety of the race.
"Prior to 1998 you couldn't talk about the weather openly to the fleet," he said.
"There were cultural things that have been turned around. And weather forecasting is better than it was 20 years ago, as is technology.
"There is a culture of safety. We know if there is adverse weather we are encouraged to talk about it openly with the fleet, we have access via the web to much better forecasting and better access to observations posts.
"We are updated all the time. There is a culture of trying to keep the fleet safe.
"There is other technology that has allowed us to improve safety such as AIS (Automatic Identification System) in life jackets.
"As soon as we go over and they inflate it sends out a beacon.
"We also have PLB's (personal locator beacons) which are like an EPIRB (emergency position indicating radio beacons) but smaller.'
Allen said the sport in general has learned from the tragedy.
"There's a long list of changes made globally,'' he said.
Others are a minimum number of sailors with Sydney to Hobart, or similar, experience to be in each crew, making it compulsory for a skipper to radio in at Green Cape prior to entering Bass Strait to confirm their engine and radio are in good working order and all of their crew are in good condition.
And at least four members of every crew must attend mandatory race and weather briefings and all crews must now carry a barometer, personal safety gear and have an EPIRB and waterproof handheld VHF radio in each liferaft.