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Festival of Sails long-range forecast Extreme

by Lisa Ratcliff 1 Oct 2019 00:30 PDT 25-27 January 2020
HIRW - Back in Black Multi Racing winner © Salty Dingo

Two Queensland based Extreme 40s will head to Geelong's 2020 Festival of Sails in January to unleash on idyllic flat-water, powered by the local and very reliable afternoon summer sea breeze.

Recent winner of the Multihull Racing division at Hamilton Island Race Week, Michel Van De Zwaard's Back in Black, is already in Victoria being prepared for sailing's Boxing Day Bash, an annual race from Port Melbourne to Blairgowrie on the Mornington Peninsula. Van De Zwaard's team hope to break that race record, set by Gusto in 2010 with a time of 4 hours 40 minutes 15 seconds, then return to the Royal Geelong Yacht Club's flagship Festival of Sails to challenge the longstanding Melbourne to Geelong Passage Race fastest time.

Back in 2005, then Victorian yachtsman Grant Wharington finished the 34 nautical mile course in 1 hour 40 minutes and 17 seconds with his 98ft maxi yacht Skandia, shaving 51 minutes 56 seconds off his previous record set in 2003 with his 83ft Skandia.

Back in Black's sailing master Rohan Veal said, "we want the outright Melbourne to Geelong race record, and this is possible if we have the right wind as we can average 20 knots around the course in 15-20 knots of breeze."

To complete the Victorian triple, Back in Black's crew will aim to crack 30-knots (55kph) of boat speed in the class that was the Extreme Sailing Series' choice of boat until the end of the 2015 season, when organisers moved to a foiling design. Australia is building a good-size group of the 12m scaled-up Tornados and the four current Queensland owners collaborate and synchronize calendars, to make sure at least two Extreme 40s turn up to every event.

"The boats will turn heads down here for sure; there hasn't been anything like them in this part of the world before," Veal continued. "After racing in difficult conditions in the Whitsundays in August, we know how to manage the boat, and we are much more confident with the idea of some Port Phillip chop. We are trying to get more of these boats on the water; once we can prove them in Melbourne the other owners might follow."

Like they did at Hamilton Island Race Week, Veal and Van De Zwaard plan to stack Back in Black with A-class and other multihull title holders, to improve the odds of another major division victory.

"The main thing we are looking forward to is the passage race on the Saturday," Van De Zwaard added, "hopefully we can improve on the record time, if conditions allow. We know the boat is capable. This time all the families are coming. It will be great racing among all the keel boats, and I'm so glad Alex is bringing his Extreme."

Alex Toomey is committed to registering Deepwater Collective for the age-old regatta that draws entries from junior classes through to classics, multihulls, sports boats and grand prix racers set up for offshore passages of world class ilk, including those preparing to tackle this year's 75th anniversary Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

"Up at Airlie and Hamilton Island, we showed we are quick in the light air and flat water," Toomey said. "My boat, which was Land Rover, arrived mid-June and we'd only sailed four times before we went up north to the Whitsundays, the reason our lack of time on board showed on the heavy air days."

While Back in Black's sail inventory is checked over and they warm up for the Festival by competing in southern state events, Deepwater Collective will be on a trailer heading to Geelong once the Bartercard Sail Paradise series has wrapped up at Queensland's Southport Yacht Club early January.

Following the Melbourne to Geelong Passage Race series opener on Saturday January 25, the protected waters off Geelong will prove ideal for two more days of speed-building sprints between marks in the various distance and windward/leeward races set for the huge combined fleet of between 250 - 300 boats.

The Notice of Race is available and entry to the January 25 - 27 Australia Day long weekend series is open via

The Festival of Sails is one of three major Victorian sporting events the state hosts at the end of January each year, the other drawcards being the Australian Open tennis in Melbourne and Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race which starts and finishes in Geelong.

Royal Geelong Yacht Club will also host five major championship events as part of its massive 2020 Summer of Sailing program. These include the Cadet National Championship from 27 December 2019 to 4 January 2020, the 49er /49er FX / Nacra 17 Oceania Championships from 30 January to 3 February 2020, the 49er /49er FX / Nacra 17 World Championships from 6 February to 15 February 2020, the Laser Masters Oceania and Australian Championships from 13 March to 18 March 2020, and the Laser Masters World Championship from 19 March to 28 March 2020.

For more information visit the event website.

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