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Rare tight finish in the Festival of Sails Melbourne to Geelong Passage Race

by Jessica Gabites 27 Jan 2019 22:40 PST 26-28 January 2019

The Melbourne to Geelong Passage Race line honours contest finished in spectacularly close fashion, four grand prix boats closing in on the finish line within 200 metres of each other in the Festival of Sails' opening event.

Two start lines of around 230 boats combined, the largest mass start of a yacht race in the southern hemisphere, set off from Williamstown at the top of Victoria's Port Phillip at 9.30am in light south-east winds.

The lead monohull, Marcus Blackmore's Sydney-based TP52 Hooligan, completed the 32 nautical mile sprint to Geelong in 3hrs 23 minutes and for the rest of the afternoon boats streamed into Corio Bay in a 15 knot SEer as the waterfront crowd swelled on Australia Day, January 26.

Amazingly for many crews it was a one tack race with plenty of reaching legs and spinnaker rides. The last boat finished just before 5pm, well before the evening's entertainment including a fireworks display.

Second over the line plus the Rating Series division 1 corrected time winner was Geoff Boettcher's TP52 Secret Mens Business from South Australia. Third to finish was Matt Allen's Ichi Ban (NSW), winner of division 1 at the Australian Yachting Championship which wrapped up two days ago across the bay at the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron.

"Handicap is what it's all about," Boettcher said. "We've never had three boats swapping positions like that, all the way across the TPs were neck and neck. We all had a go, we were gentlemanly about it though... 'you go through to the front...no you, it's your turn'.

"We found a few light patches; it kept the crew busy keeping the boat moving at maximum speed. It was excellent racing, now we've just got to keep it up."

The Rating divisions switch to windward/leewards on Sunday starting at 1230hrs in the outer harbour. The forecast is west to south-west winds 10 knots tending southerly during the afternoon and increasing to 15-20kts.

Charles Meredith's Chris White 46mk Peccadillo captured the Passage Race multihull line honours trophy in a time of 4 hours 40 minutes and the handicap win went to a local boat, Dave Ruffin's Kavala.

In other results, Rod Hagebols' Wicked leads the Bicycle Superstore International Etchells division and the Passage Race corrected time win in Cruising AMS series division 1 went to Gerry Cantwell's well-travelled Marten 49 Carrera.

Regatta director Denis Thompson and his team were delighted the wind came in stronger than forecast and that the afternoon sea breeze was able to gather up the back-markers and deliver them to Royal Geelong Yacht Club well before dark.

Gill VX One Australian Championship

In tandem with the Melbourne to Geelong Passage Race finishing off RGYC's marina, three classes began their national title on Corio Bay, the VX Ones, J111s and sports boats.

Three races into the Gill VX One Australian Championship it is no surprise that defending champ Alan Moffatt's Mack One from Queensland leads Brett Whitbread's leads Supervax 24/7 and Weapon of Choice (Fred Kasparek).

Full results in all divisions available here.

For more information visit event website and/or Facebook page.

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