The name has changed on many occasions since 1844 but, the Australia Day Regatta in Geelong has continuously been sailed for the past one hundred and sixty-eight years. In 1997, the Geelong Waterfront Festival and the Royal Geelong Yacht Club’s historic Australia Day Regatta became the Festival of Sail.
Later it became Skandia Geelong Week, after that Audi Victoria Week. Now it’s back as the Festival of Sails, with some major changes in event format that will deliver more racing and a return to some old traditions.
Jav Greaves, a member of the event management team, explained the new program today ‘The Festival of Sails is unique in combining the oldest sporting event in Victoria and the largest sailing festival in the Southern Hemisphere, with 100,000 festival goers who flock to the Geelong Waterfront to celebrate the Australia Day holiday period.
‘We are expecting another big regatta in January 2012. The Victorian Government and City of Greater Geelong are major sponsors, and a myriad of local stakeholders are supporting the event heavily again.
‘Responding to strong demands for more racing, we are changing from having an invitation-only event for some of the fleet (based in Docklands which could only hold a small fleet) to racing for the three Premier IRC Divisions and the Sydney 38 One Design Classes, out of the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria, a six-race schedule on Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd January.
Then on Thursday 26th Australia Day, we will have the traditional thirty-one nautical mile Passage race to Geelong, and then we will have racing there until Sunday 29th January.
‘This means the winners in these major keelboat divisions will be the sailors who can best handle an extended series, sailed in the likely short, sharp seas of Port Phillip, the challenging conditions of the Passage race and the fast flat-water sailing in and around Corio Bay.
‘Breaking the event in two with a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday gap before the Thursday Passage Race allows interstate visitors to enjoy much more of a family holiday. There is plenty to do in Melbourne. The Australian Open tennis is on. Bring the family...we want this regatta where the place is not just for the diehard crews but for families, allowing sailors to enjoy summer holiday time with their families in Victoria.
‘In recent years, looking to the local competitors, the prize-giving presentation was six weeks after the event. Now with so many more boats coming from interstate, we are doing all of the presentations at the event.’
‘On the Sunday we will have the presentation breakfast with a keynote speaker in the major function facility on the end of Cunningham Pier for boats that finished racing on Saturday night. Then the premier racing divisions, with two races scheduled for Sunday, will have their presentations at 3 p.m., on the main stage in the yacht club.’
‘This year we're expanding the shore side. The families of sailors and their friends and everyone in the community can come to Eastern Beach and try a whole range of water activities – wind surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, sailing, kayaking, canoeing.
‘Within the Yacht Club area, with the support of Club Marine, we now have a sailboat show, a boating lifestyle show, focused on the sailing scene. The entrance area at the side of Royal Geelong Yacht Club, that'll be transformed into a boat show area. There will be exhibitors there and next to the food and beverage marquees, inside the Club grounds
‘The new website – www.festivalofsails.com.au – was launched yesterday. ‘It is the place to go for all event information, whether you are a sailor or a Waterfront Festival patron, with up-to-date news and developments available at your fingertips.’
‘The website will also provide information leading up to and during the event, with Notice of Race, online entry, sailing instructions, event guides and entertainment schedules being easily accessible for all. Through the website, you can also visit and ‘Like’ our Facebook Page, which enables you access to a multitude of Festival of Sails updates, stories and photos.’