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Statistical Consulting Centre : Department of Mathematics and Statistics
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Sydney to Hobart yacht race winning times

The Sydney-Hobart yacht race starts from Sydney Harbour on Boxing Day (26 December) and finishes several days later in Hobart. It is a 630 nautical mile ocean race. Here are the winning times for 1945 to 2011.

Year
Line Honours Winner
Days
Hours
Minutes
Time
1945
Rani
6
14
22
6.60
1946
Morna
5
2
53
5.12
1947
Morna
5
3
3
5.13
1948 Morna
4
5
1
4.21
1949
Waltzing Matilda
5
10
33
5.44
1950
Margaret Rintoul
5
5
28
5.23
1951
Margaret Rintoul
4
2
29
4.10
1952
Nocturne
6
2
34
6.11
1953
Solveig
5
7
12
5.30
1954
Kurrewa IV
5
6
9
5.26
1955
Even
4
18
13
4.76
1956
Kurrewa IV
4
4
31
4.19
1957
Kurrewa IV
3
18
30
3.77
1958
Solo
5
2
32
5.11
1959
Solo
4
13
33
4.56
1960
Kurrewa IV
4
8
11
4.34
1961
Astor
4
4
42
4.20
1962
Ondine
3
3
46
3.16
1963
Astor
4
10
53
4.45
1964
Astor
3
20
5
3.84
1965
Stormvogel
3
20
30
3.85
1966
Fidelis
4
8
39
4.36
1967
Pen Duick III
4
4
10
4.17
1968
Ondine II
4
30
20
5.26
1969
Crusade
3
15
7
3.63
1970
Buccaneer
3
14
6
3.59
1971
Kialoa
3
12
46
3.53
1972
American Eagle
3
4
42
3.20
1973
Helsal
3
1
32
3.06
1974
Ondine III
3
13
51
3.58
1975
Kialoa
2
14
36
2.61
1976
Ballyhoo
3
7
59
3.33
1977
Kialoa II
3
10
14
3.43
1978
Apollo
4
2
23
4.10
1979
Bumblebee IV
3
1
45
3.07
1980
New Zealand
2
18
45
2.78
1981
Vengeance
3
22
30
3.94
1982
Condor of Bermuda
3
0
59
3.04
1983
Condor
3
0
50
3.03
1984
New Zealand
3
11
21
3.47
1985
Apollo
3
4
32
3.19
1986
Condor of Bermuda
2
23
26
2.98
1987
Sovereign
2
21
58
2.92
1988
Ragamuffin
3
15
29
3.65
1989
Drumbeat
3
6
21
3.26
1990
Ragamuffin
2
21
5
2.88
1991
Brindabella
3
1
14
3.05
1992
New Zealand Endeavour
2
19
19
2.80
1993
Ninety Seven
4
0
54
4.04
1994
Tasmania
2
17
48
2.74
1995
Sayonara
3
0
53
3.04
1996
Morning Glory
2
14
7
2.59
1997
Brindabella
2
23
37
2.98
1998
Sayonara
2
20
3.5
2.84
1999
Nokia
1
19
48
1.83
2000
Nicorette
2
14
2
2.58
2001
Assa Abloy
2
20
46
2.87
2002
Alfa Romeo
2
4
58
2.21
2003
Skandia
2
15
14
2.63
2004
Nicorette
2
16
1
2.67
2005 Wild Oats XI
1
18
40
1.78
2006 Wild Oats XI
2
8
53
2.37
2007 Wild Oats XI
1
21
25
1.89
2008 Wild Oats XI
1
20
34
1.86
2009 Alfa Romeo II
2
9
2
2.38
2010 Wild Oats XI
2
7
37
2.32
2011 Investec Loyal
2
6
14
2.26

 

The data for 1945-1993 comes from the Sydney Morning Herald (24 December 1994). The more recent data are from the official race website, the Sydney Morning Herald and Wikipedia. The data originally published included an error in the 1965 results; it has been amended here.

The winning time (first across the line) varies quite a bit due to weather and improvements in boat design and sailing techniques. What has been the pattern of improvement over time?

sydhob1

Winning times have generally decreased, from around 6 days to around 2.6 days on average.

How can we describe the pattern further? Using statistical methods to put a straight line on the graph (regression) gives this:

sydhob2

One way to describe the decrease is with a straight line. The straight line above was fitted by linear regression, giving time in days = 98.6 - 0.0480 x year. This describes the decrease quite well.  However, we should be cautious about applying this model to future races. For instance, extrapolating suggests that by the year 2033 it will take, on average, around 1 day to win, and by the year 2055 the winning boat will arrive before it leaves!

Are there other ways to describe the changes?  Another alternative method fits lines to only parts of the data and joins the results, like this:

sydhob3
This type of method allows for some curving by fitting straight lines to subsets of consecutive years. It makes some other adjustments and is known as 'locally weighted regression', or 'lowess' for short. The lowess curve is shown above. It shows that after about 1975 the rate of improvement slowed down.  The lowess curve helps visualize the changes over time, but it does not give us a formal mathematical model of the change over time.

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