Festival of Sails Chairman Peter Alexander said despite sizzling temperatures the weather didn’t deter tens of thousands of people from flocking to the waterfront for the 2018 Festival of Sails, including a bumper crowd on Australia Day.
“The 175th anniversary of the Festival of Sails was a fantastic celebration of both our history and our future,” he said.
About 100,000 people are believed to have enjoyed the atmosphere of Victoria’s oldest event, which this year returned to the Australia Day long weekend.
The racing at the Festival of Sails is always spectacular and this year’s regatta didn’t disappoint. Despite the weather making for some challenging conditions for competitors, there was plenty of exciting racing over the weekend” said Mr Alexander.
This year’s event attracted 300 boats of all sizes to Geelong with entries representing all Australian states and participants from New Zealand and Norway.
Conditions for the closing day of the festival, supported again by local business Rex Gorell Land Rover, were very warm but the 300-boat fleet kept moving in 8-14 knots of E-NE breeze.
The local Sydney 38 crew of Phoenix scored a third Australian Championship class victory, just one off the most successful class national title skipper ever, the late Lou Abrahams and his various boats called Challenge.
Phoenix led by three points going into the last three windward/leewards on the inner harbour and worked hard to hold off strong challenges from the Mollison family’s Sierra Chainsaw sailing for Sandringham Yacht Club and Peter Byford’s Sydney boat Conspiracy, third overall.
“It’s an unbelievable result, we are over the moon such great racing and what we did today scoring two firsts and a second was pretty special,” said Brenton Carnell. “Full credit to my team who dominated the crew work. We had everything today, breeze 8-15 knots flicking and holes everywhere, and now the boat of the day flag is up!”
A fleet of J111s raced under their own pointscore as well as a Super 11 box rule handicap and Phil Simpfendorfer’s Sandringham based Veloce made a clean-sweep of both pointscores. Both he and second in the J111 division, Rob Date, (Scarlet Runner 11), were once big boat owners who are now racing “toy boats” and loving class competition. Rod Warren’s Joust tidied up the J111 Cup and finished second in the Super 11 fleet.
Andrew York’s Reo Speedwagon took out the Gill Sports Boat Victorian state title with aplomb, five corrected time wins from eight starts and a worst score of second a scoresheet that proved too tough for the Ratcliff family on the Viper 640 Heat to overcome in the light air series.
York, the current sports boat Australian champion completed his first Festival of Sails steering Reo Speedwagon with a perfect score of three wins from three, putting seven points between Reo and the Viper skippered by 16-year-old Tyler Ratcliff. Third overall was Dan Morrow’s Anger Management, a Thompson 7 from the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria.
The Rating Series fleet lined up for a final windward/leeward race in north-easterlies up to 14 knots then a distance race to complete their five-race on-water festival program.
Division 1 top honours went to Matt Allen and his latest TP52 Ichi Ban, the Rolex Sydney Hobart overall winner and newly crowned IRC division 1 Australian Yachting Champion, from Team Hollywood.
“There was some really hot competition out there, congratulations to Ray Roberts and Team Hollywood, they had a great regatta,” said Allen. “My boat and Ray’s are probably the two newest boats in the southern hemisphere and here we are racing against each other. It was great to celebrate the 175th anniversary.”
On Ichi Ban’s extraordinary early success Allen added, “The boat hit the ground running. Because we moved the rig from the old boat we were pretty familiar with the set-up. It’s been an amazing summer – I’ve never had a summer like this. It’s a great combination of the right crew and the boat hitting its straps.”
Third behind Team Hollywood was Andrew Corletto’s GP42 Shining Sea.
Kirwan Robb, tactician for Bruce McCraken’s Rating Series division 2 winner, a Beneteau 45 First called Ikon, says the key to the boat’s ongoing dominance is maintaining a core crew.
“Eight of the core crew sailing every race together – no one has to say too much, there’s no yelling and it just happens. It’s calm and I think that makes the difference. It’s good to have Reverie out there and others to gauge yourself against.”
John Hatch’s M, a Sydney 36cr, finished second and Hugh Ellis’ Cookson 12 Voodoo third.
The 2019 Festival of Sails will be held from Australia Day Saturday, January 26 to Monday, January 28.