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Festival of Sails - U.S. yachting photographer says it’s one of a kind

by . on 30 Jan 2012
IRC start 4 bows - Festival of Sails 2012 Mary Longpre - Longpre Photos ©
Mary Longpre is an American West Coast yachting photographer from Newport Beach, California. For the past six years Mary has spent much of January ‘down under’, with Geelong’s Festival of Sails the key reason for her trip.

Mary, a 1960’s Surfer Girl, was photographing for a major surfing magazine when she began sailing in 1978. In 1983 she built a 30 foot down wind flier named Valentine, after her February 14th birthday, which she campaigns with an all women crew.

Mary’s first visit to Australia was for the 1987 America’s Cup and in 2001 she covered the America’s Cup Jubilee in Cowes.

Mary has been photographing the Geelong event since 2007 and has again made the annual trip in 2012, accompanied by her husband Bob.

‘I am heavily involved with Southern California’s Newport Ensenada (Mexico) 126 nautical mile race. I run the media centre for that event, which is about 430 boats every year, a similar big number to this one. It’s just one race and it can go on for 48 hours. ‘

‘The race is at the end of April, our spring and usually quite fair. Sometimes we will have the weather out of the south, which means the boats are beating all the way, but that’s the unusual. Normally it is a reach.’

‘There is quite a contrast between the two events. While The Festival of Sails has a passage race it is mostly round the marks courses, while we sail to a weather mark and off to Mexico. Newport Ensenada is logistically quite a complicated race because of all the customs and border crossings and situations.’

‘Coming to Australia each year has now become a tradition for us. Each year it gives us a bit of a holiday and a bit of work time for me, and of course its wonderful fun and great people down here.’

‘Every year we go somewhere else. We have actually been around Australia more than most Australians and we meet up with people who say ‘we haven’t been there’. We love it and we were coming to Australia quite a bit even before I started with this event.’

‘Last year we went over to Perth on the train, it was fun. We crossed the Nullarbor Plain and then travelled down to Margaret River for three days. The year before that we did the Ghan (train) from Darwin down to Adelaide and then went to Kangaroo Island. We have done the Murray River, we did a cruise and we have been up to the Great Barrier Reef, but not at this time of the year because the weather is not so settled.’

‘We came to New Zealand first on this trip, and spent a week on the North Island up at the Bay of Islands, where they are having their big regatta this week.’

‘While we love our own event, the Festival of Sails is really amazing, lots of different classes and so many family activities It’s unique, with such giant crowd numbers, 100,000 visitors. There is a lot that event organisers world-wide can learn from the Festival of Sails.’

Festival of Sails website

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