Darren Pickering was a 16-year-old doing work experience as a builder when he first competed in the Festival of Sails, back in 1989.
Three decades later, the East Geelong builder hasn’t missed a single Festival of Sails start. Pickering is now gearing up to set sail for his 31st consecutive regatta in 2020, with the notice of race being released and entries opening today.
Geelong’s historic Festival of Sails will celebrate its 177th anniversary this summer with the three-day regatta running from January 25 to 27, 2020.
“I can’t wait. I always look forward to Festival of Sails. It’s a great regatta, a fantastic weekend,” Pickering says. “It’s a wonderful spectacle, where we all get together and have some fun.”
The 2020 event will see the local sailor, who skippered Larriken2 to glory in the RGYC Division One 2018-2019 Summer Aggregate Series, join an exclusive group of sailors who have sailed in more than 30 regattas.
Pickering says the Passage Race from Melbourne to Geelong, which kicks-off the three-day regatta, is always a highlight.
“We love the Passage Race,” he says. “We go out racing for one or two hours at a time on Saturday or a Wednesday night, but to have something a little more challenging, with a 30 odd mile race from Melbourne to Geelong, is fantastic.”
“We don’t get to sail in big fleets like this as often as we would like. The Passage Race with a big mass start of a couple of hundred boats, is awesome.”
Larriken2 has a crew of 10, eight men and two women, who are all Geelong based.
“Many of us have been sailing together for 17 years,” he said.
Pickering and his crew have won their Division in the Festival of Sails several times and have their sights set on another win in 2020.
The 2020 Festival of Sails is expected to attract in excess of 3000 sailors and support crew from around Australia and overseas.
Off the water, tens of thousands of people are expected to enjoy Australia Day festivities along the Geelong Waterfront.
The 2020 regatta returns to Steampacket Gardens with an even bigger focus on family entertainment and on-water activities.