Sydney to Hobart organisers are pushing ahead with plans for the historical race despite growing concerns about the outbreak of COVID-19 on the northern beaches.
NSW Health announced a further 23 cases on Saturday morning, prompting the state government to enforce a lockdown in the area from 5 p.m. until midnight Wednesday.
It has cast further doubt on the 2020 Sydney to Hobart race with around 150 sailors registered for the event residing in the northern beaches.
Already the Tasmanian government has shut borders to anyone who lives on Sydney’s northern beaches or visited the hotspot since Dec. 11, and reiterated no exemptions would be made for the Sydney to Hobart fleet.
That decision is likely to affect up to a third of the fleet with the event due to start on Boxing Day.
Crisis meetings on Friday were held with the Tasmanian government and the organisers of the race, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA).
A definitive decision on whether the race would go ahead was expected on Saturday morning, but the CYCA is remaining tight-lipped as they work through possible scenarios.
Should the race be cancelled it will be for the first time in its 75-year history.
At 9 a.m. on Saturday, the CYCA released a statement saying they were closely monitoring the situation and would make an announcement if any decision was made.
“The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) continues to monitor all news and updates regarding recent cases of COVID-19 in Sydney’s northern beaches and other specified locations.
“The CYCA encourages all competitors, members, guests, volunteers and staff who reside in the areas or may have visited the locations listed to follow the recommendations outlined by NSW
Health and stay up to date with the NSW Government latest COVID-19 news and updates.”
Tasmanian premier Peter Gutwein said on Friday the decision to either push ahead or cancel the event was 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.”
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.
Strict COVID-19 protocols were already in place for crews arriving in Hobart, with everyone to be screened for symptoms by Tasmanian health and biosecurity experts.