Geelong’s iconic Passage Race is older than the Melbourne Cup and older than The Ashes!
Geelong’s 2023 Festival of Sails will mark a number of key milestones for local sailor Geoff Newman who is officially the 100th entrant in next year’s event.
As the regatta gets set to celebrate a major milestone when it returns in January 2023 and salutes the 180th anniversary of its iconic Passage Race between Melbourne and Geelong, it will also mark the 40th anniversary of Geoff taking to the water in his very first Passage Race.
“There seem to be a few numbers lining up here,” says Geoff. “Hopefully it will be a positive omen that we’ll go well!”
Crewing with Geoff on his Beneteau 381 – Dalliance II – will be his wife Andrea, 25-year-old son Will and regular crewmate Dane Gerischer.
And sailing goes way back in the Newman family, with Andrea’s father Bernard Brayton better known as ‘Red’, a well-known member of RGYC for most of his life, who also celebrated his birthday on January 26, the traditional day of the Passage Race.
“So, as you can imagine, with Dad’s birthday and racing in the Passage Race happily intertwined, it has always been a great day of fun and celebration for our family, ever since I was a small child” says Andrea. “And we’re excited to be lining up again!”
According to Geoff, the Festival of Sails is a major promotion for Geelong and an opportunity for the local community to come down and share in the entertainment and celebrations around the Royal Geelong Yacht Club.
“It’s always a party atmosphere and given we’ll be celebrating the 180th Passage Race in January, that will make it even more special!”
The Festival of Sails’ historic Passage Race which first saw sailors competing on the waters of Port Phillip Bay in 1843 predates Victoria’s official colonisation in 1851 and the 1850’s Gold Rush.
It is also Australia’s oldest sporting event – older than the Melbourne Cup which began in 1861, older than The Ashes which began in 1882 and looking overseas, older than Wimbledon, which began in in 1887!
According to Festival of Sails Chairman, Paul Buchholz the proudly Geelong-based event is a firm favourite with sailors from all over Australia, and he expects the opportunity to be part of the 180th anniversary celebrations will be even more of a reason for many of them to head to Corio Bay.
“You can’t deny the importance of any event hitting such a momentous milestone and we are incredibly proud of how the Festival of Sails showcases not only the best of competitive sailing, but also the very best of Geelong and our region,” he said.
“After more than two years of waves of Covid-related restrictions and interruptions to businesses and events, we think the 180th anniversary is a pretty good reason to celebrate, and we’ll be inviting everyone to join us!”