The 1998 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race was the 54th annual running of the "blue water classic" Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. It was hosted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia based in Sydney, New South Wales. It was the most disastrous in the race's history, with the loss of six lives and five yachts.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1998_Sydne ... Yacht_Race
The 1998 fleet comprised 115 starters. Of these, only 44 yachts completed the race, after severe weather conditions struck the fleet off the south-eastern Australian coast. An unusually strong low pressure depression developed which resulted in mid-summer snow across parts of south-east Australia. The weather system built into an exceptionally strong storm with winds reaching up to 70 knots, similar in strength to a lower-category hurricane. The rising storm produced an enormous waterspout perilously close to one yacht, ultimately causing the sinking of five boats and the deaths of six sailors. Additionally a record 66 yachts retired from the race, and 55 other sailors had to be airlifted from their yachts by rescue helicopter. Overall, the rescue efforts involved 35 military and civilian aircraft and 27 Royal Australian Navy vessels, and proved to be Australia's largest ever peacetime rescue operation.