The 2024 Festival of Sails has opened in sensational style with ‘Hooligan’ skippered by Marcus Blackmore snatching a nail-biting win in the 181st running of the iconic Passage Race from Melbourne to Geelong.
Taking to the water for its maiden race, TP52 ‘Hooligan’ captured line honours from fellow TP52s, Geoff Boettcher’s ‘Secret Men’s Business’ and Seb Bohm’s ‘Smuggler’ in an impressive time of just three hours and five minutes, despite blustery and challenging conditions with winds of more than 60kmh.
“It was a good start to our program, but surviving the start line itself was one of the biggest tasks! It was seriously choppy and the moment you hit a couple of those steep waves it really knocks you back a bit,” he said.
The annual Passage Race is the opening event of the Festival, which is the largest keelboat sailing regatta in the Southern Hemisphere and Australia’s oldest sporting event.
Festival of Sails Chairman Paul Buchholz said he was thrilled with the opening race which attracted just over 200 boats of all shapes and sizes to take on this morning’s intense conditions from Port Phillip to Corio Bay.
“It was certainly a sight to see, and the competition was definitely fierce out there. It was without doubt one of the toughest starts I’ve seen in my 38 years of competing in the Passage race!” he said.
Principal Race Officer, Denis Thompson who oversaw the start of the race said he expected many of the boats which started would potentially have retired given the extremely challenging conditions.
And there was plenty of action off the water with crowds flocking to the waterfront for the live bands and entertainment and today’s return of the popular ‘Forte Presents: Emerging Artist Stage’ which was launched at the 2023 event.
Of the ten acts who took to the foreshore stage, it was ultimately singer-songwriter duo ‘Mister Co’ who took home the title of the winning act.
Expanded hospitality areas including the new Tipi on the Bay on Fairnie Park and the raised Foredeck bar area with prime views of the main stage were especially popular.
“Apart from the fantastic sailing and racing, the Festival of Sails has always had a reputation of being a great place to party,” said Paul Buchholz. “And this year, we’ve really turned up the dial on having an offering to entertain just about everybody!”
A spectacular acrobatic flyover by a vintage CAC CA-18 Mustang, part of the heritage RAAF 100 squadron based atPoint Cook, had heads turning and the night sky is set to erupt with tonight’s ‘Festival of Sails Fireworks’.
All the excitement continues tomorrow on Day Two of the Festival with the Discover Sailing Experience and beach volleyball taking over Eastern Beach and sailing action across nine classes from 11am.
The Festival of Sails is proudly supported by the Victorian Government and the City of Greater Geelong.