It’s not too late to join sailors from all over Australia who will saturate Geelong when the Festival of Sails takes place over the Australia Day weekend from 26-29 January, with entries closing this Thursday, 19 January, at 5pm ADST.
As of this week, over 260 entries, sailing across 13 series’ have entered for the Royal Geelong Yacht Club’s (RGYC) signature event. Participants representing Queensland, Tasmania, NSW, South Australia and the Northern Territory are ready to race against Victorians on their home turf.
Those eligible have their eyes on winning the 180th Passage Race at Australian’s largest keelboat regatta and Victoria’s oldest sporting event. It opens proceedings on Australia Day, 26 January, with a spectacular mass start off Williamstown. The race finishes in Geelong where racing awaits on Corio Bay over the next days.
Meanwhile, other divisions start their series on Corio Bay, such as the Melges 24 Nationals, along with the Sports Boat and Corio Bay Racing Series’. After racing, participants will take full advantage of all the Festival of Sails offers ashore.
Headlining the Windward-Leeward Rating Series are two TP52’s from NSW; Sebastian Bohm’s Smuggler and Gordon Ketelbey’s Zen. They will be joined by the quick Cape 31 one-design, PP1 from Sandringham, owned by Damian Thomas, who placed third at the 2022 Australian Yachting Championships.
In this Series too is the new JPK 1030, Yolla (Vic). Owned by Patrick Clarke, she was launched in April 2022 and is the first JPK 1030 to arrive in Australia.
Clarke says of the design that has won major international sailing events, “So far, Yolla has shown herself to be a great all-rounder and a pleasure to sail in a range of conditions. The crew is made up of five who met racing Bluebirds in a highly competitive fleet in Williamstown.”
In the Passage Rating Series, reigning champion, Maritimo from Queensland, returns fresh from taking line and overall honours in the 50th Melbourne to Hobart Yacht Race and after finishing runner-up at the Australian Yachting Championships.
“We won our division at the Festival of Sails last year. As defending champions, we thought it was appropriate to come back,” Michael Spies, skipper of the Schumacher 54, says.
“In keeping with the Maritimo ethos, we like to support events all over the country. The boat is already in Melbourne, ready to race,” the prominent yachtsman adds.
The Passage Spinnaker Series has so far piqued the most interest. Closing in on 90 entries, it is stacked with Victorians, many after recently competing on the east coast of Australia yachting circuit.
Cameron Rae from the host club placed third at Airlie Beach Race Week with his Thompson 30, Barracuda, which is a regular on the podium. Here you will also find John Chipp and his aptly named Hot Chipps, and a past RGYC Commodore, John Kint, with Bundaberg.
A handful of female owner/skippers will also contest this series. Catherine North, who co-owns the X 362 Sport model Duxelle, with partner Michael Mactavish, learned to sail in 2016, aged 53 in her native USA. She moved to Melbourne in 1999, where she is a regular competitor. Tracey De Poi and her Elan S4, Element 22, are also regulars.
Interest in the Classic Boat Series never wanes. It is where one finds the most appealing boats of a bygone era. One is Vittoria, owned these days by Alan Reece, who refurbished the S&S 42 in 2010. She is kept on Pittwater in NSW, competing in classic events and afternoon races.
Designed by the famed Sparkman & Stephens, Vittoria was built by the equally famous Quilkey brothers in NSW, commissioned by the legendary Victorian yachtsman, Lou Abrahams (a familiar face at the Festival of Sails with various boats until his death) and campaigned in Sydney Hobarts with a best result of fifth in 1970.
Other series include the S80, Double-Handed, Passage Non-Spinnaker, Passage Mini, Bluebird, Guyon Wilson Trophy and Multihull Series.