Festival of Sails - Better late than never

Sailing: Festival of Sails 2013, Royal Geelong Yacht Club, Geelong (AUS).
Festival of Sails passage race officially ended late Friday night when three-decade-old classic yacht Martini crossed the finish line at 2038 AEDT after almost nine hours at sea.

Skipper Ross Clark said despite finishing last there was a rush of elation, quickly followed by exhaustion having raced two-up on the 30-footer with mate Michael Williams.

'It was touch-and-go there for a while,' he said. 'We saw two boats lose their masts and we had our own issues.

'She’s an old boat that’s sunk twice, so she’s had a hard life and we made it a whole lot harder.

'Some of her timber started to move, so we had a few leaks, then a bilge pump failed and when I went down below to investigate it was smoking. The only good thing was there was so much water that we knew it wasn't going to catch alight.'

Monohull line honours winner Gusto, skippered by Brian Pattinson, claimed the Telstra Trophy almost five hour earlier at 1548.

The Multihull line honours champion, Charles Meredith’s Peccadillo, finished just 13 minutes later to win the Tourism Victoria Multihull Trophy.

Conditions were some of the roughest since the race started in 1844, with a gale warning delaying the start.

Short choppy seas and wind gusts in excess of 30 knots made for uncomfortable sailing that tested the skill and endurance of the crews on board the more than 230 yachts.

Thirty-six yachts were forced to retire, one of the highest attrition rates in the race’s history.

Beats Workin, Arachnid and Avventura persevered to finish the race outside the time limit - the cut off was sun set at 2040 AEDT, a time elected by race officials for safety reasons.

Three official race boats followed the fleet on the 30 nautical mile race from Point Ormond to Geelong, constantly keeping radio contact with the fleet, the Water Police and the Coast Guard.

Principal Race Officer Denis Thompson said it was a challenging race for sailors and race officials.

'With breezes of 25 knots with squirts up to 30 and a lumpy sea there’s going to be breakages on boats,' he said. 'We had a few masts down and a few chose to go home.

'The Melbourne to Geelong passage race is always challenging. We have raced in similar conditions before, and more. Sometimes it’s fresh, sometimes it’s light, and some people would have thought yesterday was perfect.

'The big challenge for us is with 230 boats racing is making sure everyone is safe.'

Festival of Sails 2013
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