Feline good: Oli makes history as the first cat to sail in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race

Oli's owner, bob williams, has described him as an "experienced sailor"..

Oli the cat is seen being held in his owners arms on the deck of a boat.

Oli has spent five years sailing around with his owner Bob Williams, including a trip to New Zealand. Source: Getty / DAVID GRAY/AFP

  • In the 78 years since the race began, there have been no records of a cat being on board any of the competing ships.
  • The ten-year-old feline has plenty of experience at sea.
  • He's sailed with Williams for about five years, including a trip to New Zealand.

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This Cat Is Sailing in a Historic Boat Race (He’s Not Really in It to Win It)

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By Annierose Donnelly

Have you ever met a cat with sea legs? Or a cat that likes water even a little bit? Meet Oli, a cat with a passion for sailing.

Oli is making history. He is the first cat to take part in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2023 .

Oli’s owner, Bob Williams, a former naval officer, is at the helm for their entry into this year’s race. Bob has spent his life sailing around the world, and he loves to take loveable Oli with him. “I think Oli quite likes the boat life,” he shared in a recent interview.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Live Sail Die (@livesaildie)

Bob, alongside co-skipper Chris Warren, is currently taking part in the race from Sydney, Australia to Hobart, Tasmania. The race started on Boxing Day (December 26), and they are hoping to arrive before New Year’s Eve. You can track their progress on the race’s official website.

They are sailing on the oldest boat in the race, Sylph VI , a 40-foot (12-meter) yacht built in 1960. Bob has sailed around the world 2.5 times in this boat, including a recent circumnavigation of the globe, which saw him sail around the world in 193 days, cruising via all the great capes. Sylph VI has sailed in the Sydney Hobart race six times, but the last time was in 1972.

“She’s an older, heavier boat. We might be at the back of the fleet, but we’re just here to have fun and participate,” said Bob.

The competition is open to smaller boats with two-handed skippers as well as larger super yachts with up to 24 crew. Over 100 yachts are taking part in the race, which has been an Australian sporting tradition since it started in 1945. With a racing distance of 630 nautical miles (1,170 km), it is one of the world’s most challenging offshore yacht races with varying conditions at this time of year.

Best of luck to Bob, Chris, and Oli on their historic race.

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Cat makes history in sydney to hobart yacht race.

By Tiffanie Turnbull, BBC News, Sydney

Skipper Robert Williams watches his cat Oli as he stands aboard his yacht ‘Sylph VI’ during the media launch of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race in Sydney on November 22, 2023. The 78th running of the 628 nautical mile race has more than 110 yachts entered for the start on Boxing Day on Sydney Harbour. (Photo by DAVID GRAY / AFP)

Skipper Robert Williams watches his cat Oli as he stands aboard his yacht ‘Sylph VI’ during the media launch of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race in Sydney on 22 November, 2023. Photo: AFP / David Gray

When Oli queues up on the starting line for the Sydney to Hobart yacht race on Tuesday, he'll be making history.

That's because Oli is a cat.

Since the event began as a casual cruise down the east coast of Australia in 1945, it has attracted all manner of colourful competitors - from media magnate Rupert Murdoch to Australian cricket legend Michael Clarke and former UK Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath.

But there's no record of any feline seafarers in the gruelling regatta. Carrier pigeons - sure: they were once used to send messages back to shore and have graced many a deck during the ocean classic. But cats? No.

Oli's owner Bob Williams says the pair didn't set out to be pioneers. The moggy is simply part of the furniture on Sylph VI and leaving him behind on the boat's jaunt south was out of the question.

"I've done lots of crazy things, but this isn't one of them," Williams told the BBC ahead of the race.

Organisers - while initially bemused - are also on board.

There are no race rules prohibiting animals, and cats have a long history in maritime travel, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia pointed out.

"One of the great things about the Rolex Sydney Hobart is all the wonderful characters in the race and the diversity of boats," Commodore Arthur Lane said.

While most eyes will be on the speedy super maxis - giant yachts with up to 24 crew - during the Boxing Day race, Sylph, a 12m yacht made in 1960, will set off in the two-handed division where smaller boats compete with a slimmed down team.

"We're jokingly saying [it's] the two-handed and four-pawed division," Williams said.

A friend of his is co-skippering, he explains, and as for Oli: "He's SC - ship's cat."

While Sylph is an old hat - having taken part in six Sydney to Hobarts many decades ago - this is William's first time racing it.

But both he and Oli have plenty of experience at sea.

A retired navy officer, Williams has spent his life traversing the ocean - including a recent single-handed circumnavigation of the globe - much of it with a feline companion by his side.

Oli, who is about 10 years old, joined him five years ago and quickly earned his sea legs.

"He used to get seasick, and he was a bit stressed to start off with... but now he's fine. He quite enjoys life," Williams said.

The laidback kitty can usually be found meowing orders or napping on the job in the boat's cockpit.

"He's very sensible... Whenever it gets rough, he'll disappear down below to find a nice, safe spot to curl up."

Skipper Robert Williams holds his cat Oli as he stands aboard his yacht ‘Sylph VI’ during the media launch of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race in Sydney on November 22, 2023. The 78th running of the 628 nautical mile race has more than 110 yachts entered for the start on Boxing Day on Sydney Harbour.

Skipper Robert Williams holds his cat Oli as he stands aboard his yacht ‘Sylph VI’ during the media launch of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race in Sydney on 22 November, 2023. Photo: AFP / David Gray

And get rough it just might. The 630 nautical mile (1166km) dash has long been characterised by unpredictable and often brutal conditions - the worst, 25 years ago.

Competitors in the 1998 race were battered by a monster storm, which sank five boats and claimed the lives of six sailors.

This year forecasters have warned that the fleet could be in for thunderstorms, strong winds, and even hail along parts of the course.

Williams jokes that he hasn't lost a cat at sea yet.

But turning serious, he stresses that he is prepared for any emergency.

"The cat overboard routine is just to have something like a towel or a thick rope handy so that they can climb back on board."

There's no life jacket for Oli though, because he simply wouldn't wear it: "They're Houdinis… they'll escape from anything they don't like," Williams says.

But although cats hate the water, he knows for a fact Oli can swim, because he once legged it into the ocean to avoid an overzealous dog.

Sylph and her occupants will be playing it safe though and proceeding towards Hobart at a comparatively leisurely pace.

The record for the fastest finish - set in 2017- is one day and nine hours. But that was a massive, modern super yacht built for speed.

"Sylph is an older slower boat... Our ambition is to get to Hobart in time for the New Year's celebration."

There they'll mark the occasion with a nip of rum, and perhaps some milk on the rocks for Oli.

-This story was first published by the BBC .

Copyright © 2023 , Radio New Zealand

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Cat makes history in Sydney to Hobart yacht race

When Oli queues up on the starting line for the Sydney to Hobart yacht race on Tuesday, he'll be making history.

That's because Oli is a cat.

Since the event began as a casual cruise down the east coast of Australia in 1945, it has attracted all manner of colourful competitors - from media magnate Rupert Murdoch to Australian cricket legend Michael Clarke and former UK Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath.

But there's no record of any feline seafarers in the gruelling regatta. Carrier pigeons - sure: they were once used to send messages back to shore and have graced many a deck during the ocean classic. But cats? No.

Oli's owner Bob Williams says the pair didn't set out to be pioneers. The moggy is simply part of the furniture on Sylph VI and leaving him behind on the boat's jaunt south was out of the question.

"I've done lots of crazy things, but this isn't one of them," Mr Williams told the BBC ahead of the race.

Organisers - while initially bemused - are also on board.

There are no race rules prohibiting animals, and cats have a long history in maritime travel, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia pointed out.

"One of the great things about the Rolex Sydney Hobart is all the wonderful characters in the race and the diversity of boats," Commodore Arthur Lane said.

While most eyes will be on the speedy super maxis - giant yachts with up to 24 crew - during the Boxing Day race, Sylph, a 12m (40ft) yacht made in 1960, will set off in the two-handed division where smaller boats compete with a slimmed down team.

"We're jokingly saying [it's] the two-handed and four-pawed division," Mr Williams said.

A friend of his is co-skippering, he explains, and as for Oli: "He's SC - ship's cat."

While Sylph is an old hat - having taken part in six Sydney to Hobarts many decades ago - this is Mr William's first time racing it.

But both he and Oli have plenty of experience at sea.

A retired navy officer, Mr Williams has spent his life traversing the ocean - including a recent single-handed circumnavigation of the globe - much of it with a feline companion by his side.

Oli, who is about 10 years old, joined him five years ago and quickly earned his sea legs.

"He used to get seasick, and he was a bit stressed to start off with... but now he's fine. He quite enjoys life," Mr Williams said.

The laidback kitty can usually be found meowing orders or napping on the job in the boat's cockpit.

"He's very sensible... Whenever it gets rough, he'll disappear down below to find a nice, safe spot to curl up."

And get rough it just might. The 630 nautical mile (1,166km) dash has long been characterised by unpredictable and often brutal conditions - the worst, 25 years ago.

Competitors in the 1998 race were battered by a monster storm, which sank five boats and claimed the lives of six sailors.

This year forecasters have warned that the fleet could be in for thunderstorms, strong winds, and even hail along parts of the course.

Mr Williams jokes that he hasn't lost a cat at sea yet.

But turning serious, he stresses that he is prepared for any emergency.

"The cat overboard routine is just to have something like a towel or a thick rope handy so that they can climb back on board."

There's no life jacket for Oli though, because he simply wouldn't wear it: "They're Houdinis… they'll escape from anything they don't like," Mr Williams says.

But although cats hate the water, he knows for a fact Oli can swim, because he once legged it into the ocean to avoid an overzealous dog.

Sylph and her occupants will be playing it safe though and proceeding towards Hobart at a comparatively leisurely pace.

The record for the fastest finish - set in 2017- is one day and nine hours. But that was a massive, modern super yacht built for speed.

"Sylph is an older slower boat... Our ambition is to get to Hobart in time for the New Year's celebration."

There they'll mark the occasion with a nip of rum, and perhaps some milk on the rocks for Oli.

Bob and Oli are accidental pioneers

NBC New York

U.S. & World

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National Museum of the Great Lakes

I-LYA Lyman Cat Boat Race

The Lyman Boat Works, founded in 1875 by legendary boat builders Bernard and Herman Lyman, originated in the heart of Cleveland, Ohio. Their first vessels were crafted lapstrake rowboats for boaters in the Cleveland area. In 1929, Lyman Boat Works packed up shop and relocated to Sandusky, Ohio, always keeping the lapstrake tradition, but eventually adding motors to capture a new market. 

In the mid-1930s, Lyman appealed  to the sailboat market by introducing  the Lyman Cat boat. All Cat boats were fifteen feet long, with a six-foot beam and a single twenty-six-foot tall mast placed forward with the boom matching the vessel’s length. It was an ideal boat for a single or small two-person crew. Cat boats became a fad sweeping across the Great Lakes.

With these new boats rising in popularity, the Inter-Lake Yachting Association developed a new race designated for Cat sailboats to participate in their annual regatta between 1930 and 1940. These two flags are the first and second-place finishers of 1939 and 1940. These are the final years in which Lyman Cat sailboats would remain in production. Between 1875 and 1973, Lyman produced approximately 60,000 pleasure crafts.

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Oli the cat makes history at Sydney to Hobart yacht race

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A cat named Oli is making history in this year's Sydney to Hobart yacht race, as he becomes the first cat to join the iconic event.

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Wider Yachts Is Debuting a 92-Foot Hybrid Catamaran at the Venice Boat Show—Here’s a First Look

The new widercat 92 pairs high-tech hybrid propulsion with an innovative design., rachel cormack.

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Wider Yachts will unveil its first catamaran in less than a fortnight.

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With a beam just shy of 40 feet, the cat offers a generous amount of space onboard. The first hull is equipped with one giant owner’s suite, two generous VIP cabins, and one twin, but owners can also opt for a five-cabin layout. This particular owner’s suite covers almost half of the main deck and opens onto a private foredeck lounge. The main deck is also home to a well-equipped galley and a customizable aft cockpit, while the upper deck sports an additional forward cockpit, a sky lounge, and the helm. At the stern, the tender garage can transform into a spacious aft beach club with fold-down bulwarks that increase the amount of waterside space. Wider is widely considered to have started the trend of fold-out platforms for yachts.

Maggi says eight other hulls are under construction at the yard in Fano. Following the unveiling of the first hull in Venice, Wider will release a four-episode web series detailing the evolution of the pioneering multihull. The WiderCat 92’s worldwide debut is scheduled for the Cannes Yachting Festival this September.

Rachel Cormack is a digital editor at Robb Report. She cut her teeth writing for HuffPost, Concrete Playground, and several other online publications in Australia, before moving to New York at the…

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COMMENTS

  1. Feline good: Oli makes history as the first cat to sail in the ...

    Key Points. In the 78 years since the race began, there have been no records of a cat being on board any of the competing ships. The ten-year-old feline has plenty of experience at sea.

  2. This Cat Is Sailing in a Historic Boat Race (He's Not Really in It to

    Over 100 yachts are taking part in the race, which has been an Australian sporting tradition since it started in 1945. With a racing distance of 630 nautical miles (1,170 km), it is one of the world's most challenging offshore yacht races with varying conditions at this time of year. Best of luck to Bob, Chris, and Oli on their historic race.

  3. Cat that captured hearts in Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race furthers

    Skipper Bob Williams with his cat Oli, who won many hearts during the Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race, arriving to much fanfare on January 3.(ABC News: Glenn Dickson/Clancy Balen)

  4. Oli the cat completes Sydney to Hobart yacht race to fanfare at dock

    Oli has been gifted a cat carrier so he can join his crewmates for a beer at the pub. The first Sydney to Hobart yacht came in days ago and the fanfare on Hobart's waterfront has died down, but ...

  5. Oli the cat completes Sydney to Hobart yacht race

    An emotional Skipper Bob Williams greets the fanfare in Hobart with his cat Oli as their yacht, the last in the fleet, brings the Sydney to Hobart race to a ...

  6. 'He's just part of the ship's crew': Oli the cat set for fantastic

    When Sylph VI sets sail in this year's Sydney to Hobart yacht race, skipper Bob Williams will have a special crew-member on board along with co-skipper Chris Warren — Williams's cat Oli.

  7. Cat makes history in Sydney to Hobart yacht race

    When Oli queues up on the starting line for the Sydney to Hobart yacht race on Tuesday, he'll be making history. That's because Oli is a cat. Since the event began as a casual cruise down the east coast of Australia in 1945, it has attracted all manner of colourful competitors - from media magnate Rupert Murdoch to Australian cricket legend Michael Clarke and former UK Prime Minister Sir ...

  8. Cat makes history in Sydney to Hobart yacht race

    That's because Oli is a cat. ... While most eyes will be on the speedy super maxis - giant yachts with up to 24 crew - during the Boxing Day race, Sylph, a 12m (40ft) yacht made in 1960, will set ...

  9. Meet Oli, the first cat to sail in the Sydney-Hobart race

    Oli the cat is believed to have made history on Tuesday (December 26) when the furry feline set sail as part of a boat's crew in the annual Sydney to Hobart ...

  10. Oli the cat completes Sydney-Hobart yacht race

    고양이 '올리', 시드니-호바트 요트 경주 완주The Rolex Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race came to a close on Wednesday as the last boat crossed the finish line carrying a cat named Oli. ...

  11. Cat makes history in yacht race

    Oil the cat is believed to be the first feline to sail as part of a boat's crew in the annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

  12. SUPER CAT

    The longstanding premier class of offshore racing. The Super Cat Class boasts twin hull catamarans ranging from 38′ to 44′ in length powered by twin 850 horsepower engines of various manufacturers, with speeds reaching 140 mph. ... Please register at least 2 weeks prior to the each race event for a 20% incentive discount. Early registration ...

  13. I-LYA Lyman Cat Boat Race

    With these new boats rising in popularity, the Inter-Lake Yachting Association developed a new race designated for Cat sailboats to participate in their annual regatta between 1930 and 1940. These two flags are the first and second-place finishers of 1939 and 1940. These are the final years in which Lyman Cat sailboats would remain in production.

  14. New England Beetle Cat Boat Association

    The purposes of the New England Beetle Cat Boat Association (NEBCBA) are: Promote and encourage the sailing and racing of Original Beetle Cat Boats. Maintain uniform measurements and specifications so as to assure, to the extent possible, a truly one-design class. Sponsor class regattas and determine class champions.

  15. Meet Oli: the first cat to contest the Sydney to Hobart yacht race

    VIDEO. : Meet Oli: the first cat to contest the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. Posted Mon 25 Dec 2023 at 9:28pm. Watch. 5m. Sylph VI's co-skipper Bob Williams says the feline is an 'experienced ...

  16. Catamaran Performance Boats for Sale

    Call for additional information or to schedule a viewing. Maxed Out Marine 928-854-3060 Maxedoutmarine.com. Located in Lake Havasu City Arizona. Year: 2020 Power: Single 734 hp Location: Arizona Contact Number: 928-854-3060 Asking: $100,000 Details & Photos ».

  17. A New Breed of Cat: High-Performance Power Catamarans

    Freeman catamarans were fast out of the gate. The original 33 hit a top end of some 55 knots with twin 350-hp outboards. Customers were sold, and demand for larger boats poured in. Freeman expanded, offering a 37 and 42, and earlier this year, the company released a 47-footer with a 13-foot, 2-inch beam.

  18. A Cat

    A Cat trophies seem to pass regularly back and forth between all the boats, one of the great attractions of the class. The competition is fierce and the races hotly contested. The class as a whole tends to self-regulate and that continues to attract dedicated owners. A Cat owners are motivated people. Maintaining one of them is a big commitment.

  19. Oli the cat makes history at Sydney to Hobart yacht race

    00:00. Sylph VI skipper and owner Robert 'Bob' Williams with his cat Oli who will sail with Bob in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race on board Sylph VI during the launch event for the 2023 Sydney ...

  20. Cat makes history in Sydney to Hobart yacht race

    #englishnews #yachtrace #sydney #hobart News Article :-When Oli queues up on the starting line for the Sydney to Hobart yacht race on Tuesday, he'll be makin...

  21. 2024 A-Cat Admiral's Cup and North American Championships: April 5-13

    Hal Smith, PYC's Vice Commodore and National Race Officer, promises top quality race management. Past Commodore and Regatta Chairman Tom Pace will put together a great shore team and a program of activities for all. The PYC team wants A-Class Catamarans to come from all over the nation to enjoy the "South's Finest Yacht Club."

  22. Catamaran Race Boats for Sale

    Catamaran Race Boats for Sale Preowned high performance powerboats, cruisers, and yachts for sale by owner. Featured. Avoid Fraud. View All. v-Hulls. Catamarans. Search. Post an Ad ... 2007 MTI 44 Race - Pleasure canopy cat powered by twin Lycoming T-53 1550 Turbines with low hours BPM Surface Drives with Stainless steel torque tubes Fresh ...

  23. Wider Yachts Will Unveil Its First Catamaran at the Venice Boat Show

    Wider Yachts Is Debuting a 92-Foot Hybrid Catamaran at the Venice Boat Show—Here's a First Look ... The cat has a max speed of 14 knots, a cruising speed of 12 knots, and a range of 1,600 ...