This morning at 0930 on Australia Day 2012, almost three hundred yachts set sail in a historic passage race from Williamstown on Melbourne’s Port Phillip to Geelong’s Corio Bay, to join another hundred boats already sailing there, for a four day regatta.
These days this passage race is an iconic part of the Festival of Sails Australia Day celebrations with the first race 168 years ago, back in 1844 starting the tradition.
Sir Roderick Eddington, the Victorian Major Events Company Chairman, has been on the water for the last six Melbourne to Geelong Australia Day starts.
Before he fired the five-minute warning signal, he explained the importance of the event.
‘The Festival of Sails and this historic Melbourne to Geelong passage race linking Port Phillip and Corio Bay, is a very important part of Melbourne and Victoria's Events calendar.
‘The one-offs in the event calendar across the year are great, they are the curry powder in the mix, they give it a bit of flavour but the major events that happen year in year out really make a difference.
‘We have some wonderful examples here; the AFL Grand Final, the Melbourne Tennis Open, the Melbourne Cup and the Festival of Sails, which is the longest running sporting event in Victoria.
‘The Festival of Sails is very important. In Australia when we think of harbours we naturally think of Sydney Harbour, but Melbourne’s Port Phillip is a much larger harbour. It’s a beautiful asset for the state of Victoria and we just don’t make enough of it.
‘Many of our big communities live on the Bay and Geelong is a fine example of this, along with Sorrento and Portsea. We have wonderful harbour access and we just don’t make enough of Port Phillip. This event is an opportunity to showcase our harbour and it is a great example of how we can do it and do it really well.’
The Mayor of Greater Geelong John Mitchell emphasises the destination for this Australia Day race.
‘The Festival of Sails is a major celebration of our maritime heritage in Geelong. The waterfront, once upon our time was our industrial back-end, now it’s our face.
'It’s a major asset, our jewel in the crown! Corio Bay is a great north facing bay, it’s a wonderful aspect.
'To have this many boats and sailors in Geelong for three to four days because of the yacht race is wonderful. It’s a very important event for the community and the local economy. Try and get a bed in Geelong right now - you won’t get one.
‘With 100,000 plus visitors over four days on the waterfront and at and around the Royal Geelong Yacht Cub, it’s become an important community space.
‘Credit must go to people who have gone before us for their foresight and vision in developing the waterfront and we are continuing to develop it.
‘To be able to put the area on display with this historic regatta is really wonderful.’
Bare Essentials first home overall and in the Multihull Division, in the Melbourne to Geelong Passage Race - Festival of Sails 2012, Royal Geelong Yacht Club - Teri Dodds- Festival?nid=93261
of Sails ©
The Festival of Sails continues until Sunday January 29.
Visit the Festival of Sails website http://festivalofsails.com.au/
for the waterfront entertainment guide and more event information.