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Huge crowds enjoy iconic Festival of Sails weekend

by Jessica Gabites 28 Jan 01:37 PST 26-28 January 2019

Visitors to the iconic Festival of Sails over coming years will enjoy a distinctively different experience with the Royal Geelong Yacht Club unveiling its multi-million dollar re-development plans over the weekend.

As the 2019 Festival of Sails comes to an end this afternoon after another successful three-day regatta, attention now turns to the re-development which in coming years is set to dramatically transform the Geelong waterfront.

The Geelong Waterfront Safe Harbour Precinct Project is designed to increase use of the waterfront for public recreation, stimulate economic growth by attracting new events and tourists, increase use of the waterfront for public recreation and community programming and create a safe harbour to improve destination attractiveness for boats users.

The plans will see the Geelong waterfront safe harbour precinct redeveloped over the next couple of years, including a brand new shared facility for the Victorian Sailing School and the Royal Geelong Yacht Club Off the Beach sailors.

So far a total of $19.1 million has been committed to fund the redevelopment, coming from the RGYC, City of Greater Geelong, State Government of Victoria and the Federal Government.

Masterplans will go to the City of Greater Geelong Council next month for approval with construction of the first stage expected to start in the middle of this year.

Commodore John Kint said the plans included 20 new floating berths and a new wave attenuator, planned for construction ahead of the 2020 Festival of Sails. The 550m attenuator will provide significant protection for local and visiting boats in the marina. It will also enable the public to walk along 410m of the 6m wide structure.

The Commodore said the new development would also strongly enhance the visitor experience.

"The re-development will transform how we run the Festival of Sails. It gives us a real opportunity to start expanding the growth of the on-water component as we will have the facilities to cater for this."

"The transformation is significant for the Royal Geelong Yacht Club which has been here for over 150 years, as well as for Geelong."

The timing of the re-development couldn't be better for Geelong with the city hosting four Olympic Class World Sailing Championships, following the 2020 Festival of Sails.

Almost 800 international and local competitors will take to the waters of Corio Bay.

This includes the 49er (men), 49erFX (women) and Nacra World Championships (February 8 to 15, 2020), as well as the Laser Masters World Championship (March 19 to 28, 2020).

With the Tokyo Olympics taking place in July 2020, it is anticipated international teams will stay on and train in Geelong before continuing on to Japan.

Meanwhile, as many as 200,000 people are believed to have enjoyed the festivities of the Geelong Waterfront this weekend as the city played host to two major events the historic Festival of Sails and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.

Festival of Sails Chairman Stuart Dickson said beautiful weather, exciting racing on Corio Bay and Port Phillip Bay and a smorgasbord of entertainment combined for a terrific event.

'"This weekend, the Royal Geelong Yacht Club has welcomed more than 300 boats and 3000 sailors, including participants from overseas and every state and territory, to our city. This is fantastic for the event and for Geelong."

Mr Dickson said it was an honour to welcome former Olympian and America's Cup hero Sir James Hardy, the 2019 Festival of Sails Ambassador, back to the regatta.

He also paid tribute to a group of almost 200 dedicated volunteers who helped make the 2019 Festival of Sails such a success.

Meanwhile, thirteen members of the CCC Team (elite men's cycling team) enjoyed the chance to relax on Corio Bay today, less than 24 hours after they competed in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. The cyclists were guests on Steve and Lee Renfrey's Peterson 44 cruising yacht 'Pipe Dream'.

The group consisted of riders from 11 different countries including Belgium, Holland, Poland, Switzerland, USA, Portugal, New Zealand, Czech Republic, Spain, Austria and Germany.

Spanish cyclist Francisco Jose Ventoso said he and his team members were first time visitors to the Festival of Sails and excited to be heading out for a day sailing, even though a number of the team had never set foot on a boat before.

"We are really happy to go out for a sail. This event is really nice, has a good feeling and there are lovely people around the boats," he said.

"This is my third time to Geelong and I'm looking forward to coming back next year too."

Pipe Dream owner Steve Renfrey said it was an honour to be hosting the international cyclists.

"This is such a great opportunity to show off Geelong and Corio Bay on a beautiful day. These guys literally come from all over the world and I'm sure they'll have a fabulous day taking in Geelong from the water."

For more information visit the event website.

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