Festival Of Sails

180th Festival of Sails off to a flying start with ‘Zen’ taking line honours in iconic Passage Race!

The 180th Passage Race opened the 2023 Festival of Sails in spectacular fashion with almost 250 boats jostling for position on the waters of Port Phillip at Williamstown as the starter’s cannon fired at 9.30am this morning. 


Grand Prix racing yachts, cruiser/racer keelboats, multihulls, classic yachts and trailer sailers charged off two long lines for the largest single start of a yacht race in the largest keelboat regatta in the Southern Hemisphere.  


Faced with variable conditions over the 36 nautical mile race, ultimately it was the Gordon Ketelbey Sydney TP52 ZEN who took line honours with a time of three hours 43 minutes and seven seconds, after competing in the 2022 Rolex Sydney Hobart just weeks ago. 


The skipper said he was very pleased with the performance in the opening race saying, “It’s a good feeling taking line honours in this race!” 


Sebastian Bohm’s TP52 ‘Smuggler’ from Sydney took second prize and Geelong Cookson 50 ‘Extasea’ skippered by Festival of Sails Chairman, Paul Buchholz snatched the third prize. 


“As Chairman of the event, I couldn’t be more thrilled with our event turnout today and it’s terrific to see so many people coming down to the waterfront to celebrate the long weekend, whether it’s on water or enjoying the great entertainment we have on offer,” said Paul Buchholz. “Grabbing a place in the top three was a real bonus!” 


The Festival of Sails is Australia’s oldest sporting event – older than the Melbourne Cup which began in in 1861, older than The Ashes which began in 1882 and looking overseas, older than Wimbledon, which began in in 1887 and the America’s Cup which began in 1851! 


Away from the water, thousands of people descended on the waterfront to enjoy the carnival atmosphere where the focus was on live entertainment, beach volleyball, and market stalls before being wowed a RAAF Roulettes flyover and the fireworks due to explode at 9.30 pm. 


Event highlights tomorrow include more world class sailing, beach volleyball, coastal rowing demonstrations and entertainment from Jess Locke, Skyscraper Stan, the Winter McQuinn Band, the Quivers and the Natural Culture.  


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