The kinetics of DNA hybridisation are fundamental to biological processes and DNA-based technologies. However, the precise physical mechanisms that determine why different DNA sequences hybridise at different rates are not well understood. Secondary structure is one predictable factor that influences hybridisation rates but is not sufficient on its own to fully explain the observed sequence-dependent variance. In this context, we measured hybridisation rates of 43 different DNA sequences that are not predicted to form secondary structure and present a parsimonious physically justified model to quantify our observations. Accounting only for the combinatorics of complementary nucleating interactions and their sequence-dependent stability, the model achieves good correlation with experiment with only two free parameters. Our results indicate that greater repetition of Watson-Crick pairs increases the number of initial states able to proceed to full hybridisation, with the stability of those pairings dictating the likelihood of such progression, thus providing new insight into the physical factors underpinning DNA hybridisation rates.