Nestled along the Rushcutters Bay foreshore, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia is both a local landmark and a national institution.
As well as being the home of the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, the CYCA is also a very pleasant place to enjoy lunch or a drink by the water.
We take you inside this local icon ahead of the big race starting on Boxing Day.
The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
The CYCA is the home of the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, an icon of Australian sport and considered by many to be yachting’s ‘Everest’. After a year like no other, Tasmania has recently reopened its borders to visitors from New South Wales and the starting cannon will fire at 1pm on Boxing Day, the tradition that marks the start of Australia’s best known yacht race. This year a fleet of 100 boats will set sail from Sydney Harbour, including 1954’s overall winner Solveig, as well as more recent winners Ichi Ban, Alive and Quest.
Champagne corks will still pop, as the 76th race kicks off. 2020 also marks the 75th year of women sailors’ participation in the race, and female crews will be well-represented this year, with five boats to be helmed by female skippers.
Due to COVID restrictions, the usual parties and social events held in December at the CYCA in the lead up to the race won’t be going ahead, but the general feeling is one of relief and delight that the race itself is able to take place after a year filled with uncertainty. Locals will still be able to watch the yachts sail down the harbour, and out Sydney heads.
The CYCA was formed in 1944 when a group of enthusiastic sailors began meeting at a photographic studio in Sydney. In 1945 an after-dinner conversation transformed a planned cruise to Hobart into a race, and Sydney to Hobart was born.
In 1951, after five Sydney Hobart Races, the club borrowed £10,000 to purchase the weatherboard and corrugated iron waterfront premises of the Rushcutter Yacht Service. And so, the CYCA had a clubhouse.
The club has gone from strength to strength, growing to become Australia’s premier yacht club and one of the nation’s leaders in ocean racing. CYCA members have represented Australia at the highest competitive levels of sailing in the world, including the America’s Cup and the Olympics.
The CYCA celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2019, the same year it conducted the 75th Sydney Hobart Race with 157 starters.
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As the home of the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, it goes without saying that they take their sailing seriously at the CYCA. They offer Australia’s largest offshore sailing program, diverse inshore racing, and a prestigious youth sailing academy, established in 1993.
But it’s not all about big-league racing. The CYCA has a sailing program designed to keep all levels of sailors on the water, including a Cruising Committee focused on organising cruise events and giving members more opportunity to meet one another and use the club facilities.
Safety of Life at Sea Trusts (SOLAS)
The CYCA is invested in raising safety at sea for all through the CYCA Sydney Hobart Yacht Race Safety of Life at Sea Trusts. The CYCA SOLAS Trusts were established following the tragic 1998 Sydney Hobart Race, where six lives were lost. The Trusts were set up to assist the immediate family of those lost at seas during Yachting Australia sanctioned races, to aid search and rescue organisations Australia-wide and to promote research and training to advance procedures and equipment for use at sea. Since their inception, the Trusts have raised more than $1.6m.
The ramshackle waterfront building purchased in 1951 has given way to a stylish and sophisticated clubhouse. A complete redesign by architects Allen Jack+Cottier in 2018 improved accessibility, comfort and airflow and brought the building into the 21st century whilst retaining a strong sense of the club’s heritage. The CYCA now boasts a floating marina, luxurious function rooms, dining on the deck and a complete suite of boat support services.
Bar and Dining
The upper covered deck and the lower open deck facing the water are occupied by the Sydney Hobart Bar and Café 44. The lower deck is an idyllic spot to enjoy a meal or a drink and while away an afternoon or evening by the water. Attire is casual and the vibe is relaxed. Leashed dogs are welcome on the lower deck. The café also features a service window supplying Rushcutters Bay Park goers with takeaway food and coffee.
The exclusive Coasters Retreat Bar is found on the upper level of the club and is only open to members and their guests. The bar features a 440kg marble front and handsome brass beer fonts. The space is divided by a double-sided fireplace, and members can enjoy a lounge environment to one side and a reading room to the other.
Anyone, sailor or not, is welcome to join the CYCA’s 3000+ members and become a member.
If you live within a 5km radius of 1 New Beach Road, Darling Point, you’ll need to be a member, the guest of a member or a member of another yacht club to access the club, including the bar and café. It’s worth noting that the 5km radius is measured as the crow flies; it’s not the distance of the road route from your home to the club. If you live beyond the 5km radius, you can attend the club as a visitor.
The Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2020 fleet will set sail for Hobart at 1pm on Boxing Day off Nielsen Park, Vaucluse. Darling Point, Point Piper and Hornby Lighthouse at Watson Bay are all excellent vantage points from which to watch the start of the race.