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Classic & colourful: The 175th anniversary Festival of Sails comes to an end

by Lisa Ratcliff 29 Jan 2018 23:14 PST 26-28 January 2018
Clark and Williams Classic Boat winner Martini - Festival of Sails © Steb Fisher

Twenty different divisions contested the 175th anniversary Festival of Sails, from tiny single-handed junior Optimists to classic boat winners crewed by just two, through to professional teams of up to 15 aboard the latest ocean-going weapons.

A vast cruising fleet broken up into their respective divisions made up the bulk of the 300-strong fleet and delivered the kaleidoscope of colour on Geelong's Corio Bay over the three-day regatta, and various other classes such as the International Etchells and Trailer Yachts enjoyed super tight class and like-boat racing.

Geelong Connected Communities Classic Yacht division

In keeping with the significance of the milestone Festival of Sails, Australia's second oldest regatta behind the Australia Day Regatta on Sydney Harbour, a small division of classic yachts graced the race course over the three-day regatta.

Ross Clark and Michael Williams' S&S 30 OMR handicap winner Martini had a totally different experience to their last Festival of Sails in 2013 when terrible storms belted the boat and crew.

"We had a great time this year; we raced way above our handicap, even in the final race when Michael had to go home and I found someone to come with me who had never sailed before!"

"Everything went right this weekend. We picked the shifts and we have never sailed so well, everything fell into place. We must have done 25 tacks up Point Henry Channel with only two onboard on Sunday, the high temperature really knocked us."

Martini, considered a classic boat with a birth date of 1970, was a wreck when Clark and Williams took her into their care. "She had sunk twice and I spent 10 years renovating her, an hour a day. As my wife says, she's my mistress."

Bicycle Superstore International Etchells

A late charge by ex-RGYC sailing manager Rog Hagebols and his Wicked crew moved them into first in the Etchells pointscore.

"We finished off with a flurry, I think it was trying to stay in phase in the shifty pressure," Hagebols said. On the local class he added, "The class has always been ok here, Corio Bay is very nice for sailing an Etchells, not too rough on the boat and body. It's the first time the Etchells have been at the Festival of Sails and hopefully we can grow it next year with some out-of-towners coming to the event."

Schweppes Multihull Series

Schweppes Multihull Series winner, Stephen Medwell's Corsair 760, battled with Charles Meredith's goliath Peccadillo, over five races. In the end, Peccadillo's fifth on handicap in the light air Melbourne to Geelong Passage Race versus the Corsair's firsts and second places in every race proved the difference and Meredith had to settle for second.

Other results

Cruising AMS division 1 went to Marcus Sill's NSX38 called INSX and division 2 to Philip Endersbee's Hanse 415 Matadore. Robert Green's stunning Pacific 50, Dream, outclassed the rest of Cruising Spinnaker division 1 and Peter Bone's Baltic produced the same outcome in division 2. Will Baum's Division 3 winner Too Far went far enough to secure the top ranking and in Cruising Non-Spinnaker division, Stuart Pyers' Suelan won on a countback from Avventura.

Full results in every division are available at and plenty of video recaps thanks to VR Sport TV are on the event Facebook page

Final words from the Principal Race Officer

Denis Thompson said this year's festival was challenging at times, particularly on Saturday afternoon with the sea breeze in so late which compressed the day and twilight race for huge numbers of boats, and put pressure on the club's resources to run the Optimist series for junior sailors. "On Saturday afternoon we had every mark in the water and every boat being utilised, and the entire team managed to make it work."

"We'll now stand back and look at it for next year." He paid tribute to the large team of on-water volunteers aged between teenagers and a 91-year-old gentleman who turns up each year. "I'm always astonished given the size of Geelong how many volunteers they can pull together. Everybody worked to make things happen."

All up, regatta host Royal Geelong Yacht Club has a team of 240 land and water based volunteers to thank for their contribution to such a successful milestone edition generously supported by Geelong business Rex Gorell Land Rover.

Dates for next year's Festival of Sails are set down for Saturday 26 to Monday 28 January, 2019.

Tracking devices were utilised by some divisions over the festival, see here

For more information visit

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