Festival of Sails - An impressive fleet line up

Black Betty - Festival of Sails
Festival of Sails, organised by Royal Geelong Yacht Club, is to be held from Thursday 23rd until Monday 27th January 2014. A box of all-sorts, from Adams 10s to Matt Allen’s new glamour Carkeek 60, will be slotted into their respective divisions when the impressive Racing Series fleet contest Victoria’s 2014 Festival of Sails.

For the 2013 edition, the IRC fleet missed the traditional Festival opener, the passage race from Williamstown to Geelong, instead challenging for the Audi IRC Australian Championship on Corio Bay, Geelong.

In 2014, the larger fleet, minus the Melges 24s, sports boats, Sydney 38s and Flying 15s, will combine once again, on Friday January 24, for the colourful mass start off Melbourne at 9.30am. This will again be the first event of the Racing Series division’s eight race Festival series, which will also incorporate the Victorian IRC and AMS Championships.

Among the 40-footers on the entry list for the popular Australia Day weekend regatta will be two first-timers. One is a few years old and about to embark on its first event outside Western Australia. The other is based on the opposite side of Port Phillip to Geelong and still has that new boat smell having only hit the water for the first time, last Friday.

Many racing entries fly the host or nearby yacht club burgee, so it’s a short hop out to the starting stalls each day on Geelong’s Corio Bay. Gary McNally and partner in the logistical challenge, Brian McMasters, are trucking the GP42 Black Betty with an escort almost 3,500 kilometres across the Nullarbor Plain from Perth to the Festival of Sails for their first foray into interstate competition.

Black Betty, from the Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club in Perth, will need an extendable semi-trailer and escort for the six day journey, which could mark the start of an extensive eastern seaboard campaign.

'If all goes well the Festival of Sails could be the first in an extended campaign which would see us truck the boat back to Perth after the Festival for Geographe Race Week, then back across to the east coast for next April’s Audi IRC Australian Championship at Newcastle and up to the Whitsundays for Audi Hamilton Island Race Week in August,' said McNally.

'Next year we’ll maybe turn Black Betty into an oversized trailer sailer,' he laughed.

A company director who made his money installing mining camps, McNally bought the former TP42 in 2010 off the Med Cup circuit and optimised it for IRC handicap, turning it into a GP42. Conditions on the west coast and depth of the Swan River suit the boat’s keel depth and it’s proven an all-rounder with some worthy results. Now McMasters and McNally want to benchmark it against the strong Victorian and NSW fleets.

Melbourne based businessman and Yachting Australia board member, Phil Coombs, has registered his 42-footer for the Festival of Sails. His is an HH42 called Simply Fun, a joint venture between Hudson Marine in China and Hakes Marine in New Zealand. The new Judel Vrolijk design was built in China, the third hull off the production line, and launched by Coombs and wife Cheryl last Friday.

'We had our first test sail last Saturday and it was awesome, very impressive,' said Coombs, both a Mornington Yacht Club and Sandringham Yacht Club member. 'The boat said ‘Merry Christmas to us’, to me and my wife.'

Purpose built as an IRC performer with offshore capabilities, Coombs says Simply Fun is capable of taking on a Rolex Sydney Hobart and performing on handicap at the major regattas with a club crew pulling the ropes.

Since selling his DK46 Dekadence three years ago, Coombs has been chilling out in cruising mode aboard his Beneteau First 50. Now he’s back with a new high performance and high fun factor race toy structured around sailing with mates.

'We are aiming to put some fun back into keelboat racing with this new boat. It’s essentially a shrunken TP52 with all the latest technology. I think this will be the next generation of IRC boat in the 40-foot range,' Coombs said.

At least half of his Dekadence crew have returned to make up the required 9-11 bodies needed to run the boat, 'that’s pretty cool' admits the owner.

Latest Racing Series entry list

The regular entry fee for the 2014 Festival of sails, conducted by the Royal Geelong Yacht Club, applies to January 10th and a late entry fee of $100 will apply after thereafter.

In 2014 the event will host four Australian Championship events; the Melges 24 Australian Open Nationals, the Australian Teams Racing Championship, the Beneteau First Nationals and the Sydney 38 One Design Australian Championships.

From Tuesday 21st to Monday 27th January an extensive sailing program will cater for all levels, with 17 different classes open to keelboats and multihulls from Australia and overseas.

The event will conclude Monday 27th, the Australia Day public holiday, with the trophy presentations and the final Shoreside Festival program of activities.

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