Sydney 38s. Sunday, day three of racing, Festival of Sails 2016, Geelong.  Picture Craig Greenhill, Saltwater Images
Sydney 38s. Sunday, day three of racing, Festival of Sails 2016, Geelong. Picture Craig Greenhill, Saltwater Images

2016 Festival of Sails: five days of sun, salt and way too much sailing talk

Spread across Geelong’s Corio Bay over the last four days, the cruising and classic yachts, multihulls and S80s provided a stunning backdrop to one of Australia’s oldest sporting events, the annual Festival of Sails presented by Rex Gorell Land Rover.

These divisions were part of the impressive 276 boat armada from every Australian state plus the ACT that gathered to celebrate the fun of sailing competition, both on the water and ashore, for the 173rd time.

Their racing finished Monday, January 25, 2016 on a third day of consistent sea-breezes, 15-20kts, and capped off by a late afternoon twilight race.  The winners were announced Monday night at the host Royal Geelong Yacht Club, the Australia Day eve fireworks providing a fitting tribute to the podium finishers.

The very last Festival of Sails trophies were awarded to the Rating Series and Super 11 winners and masses of weary sailors headed back to their home port Tuesday afternoon, to some much needed normalcy after five long days of sun, salt spray and way too much sailing talk.

Tim Pepperell’s Grainger trimaran Bare Essentials provided dramatic images for the photographers as they flew around Corio Bay, but at the end of the four-race Schweppes Multihull series it was John Williams’ Tyee III that took out the main handicap prize. Second overall after a countback was local boat, David Ruffin’s Kavala and third overall, again after a countback, was Peter Strain’s It’s a Privilege.

Luke Reinehr’s Intrusion, from Sandringham Yacht Club, is the overall winner of the 13-boat S80 fleet. Reinehr’s team raced consistently to record three seconds and two firsts across the five series races. Second place went to last year’s division winner, Bas Huibers’ Merak and third to Bill Feore’s Skipjack.

Cruising AMS Division 1
The Peroni AMS division was won by Etchells and Contender class champion Mark Bulka with his Dufour 44, Balance.  Bulka took time off his small boat commitments to gather together a crew of friends and family for the historical long weekend regatta. He admitted that even though this was to be a relaxed regatta, he couldn’t help his competitive drive coming out as he pitted Balance against a fleet of 30 other division 1 contenders.

In second place was Frank Hammond’s Radford 35 Horizon Sprint and in third place, Martin Vaughan’s Sydney 36cr Wild Side.

The Wolf Blass EHC division was won by Paul Roberts’ Cadibarra 8. In second was Hammond’s Horizon Sprint and in third overall, Gary Prestedge’s One for the Road.

Cruising AMS Division 2
The 29-boat Cruising AMS Division 2 fleet was drawn from clubs right around Port Phillip and Geelong.

Gary Mackinven’s Beneteau 34.7, Way2Go! finished a clear winner for both prizes; Peroni AMS honours and the Wolf Blass EHC honours.

In second place on AMS was Steve Copley’s 36-foot Primo and third overall, James Ryan’s Farr 1020 Johnny Be Goode. On EHC Ari Abrahams’ Xpresso was second and Copley’s Primo finished third overall.

Club Marine Cruising Spinnaker
In Division 1 the winner in the 27-boat fleet was Paul Bunn’s Beneteau First 44.7 Christine. In second overall was the classic 12m, Michael Smith’s Kookaburra and in third place, David Stoopman’s Beneteau First 47.7 Samskara.

Division 2 was won by a strong performance from Ryan Walker’s Sydney 36cr Peregrine. In second place was Stuart Pyers’ Lexcan 41 Suelan. In third place overall was Ian Robottom’s Jenneau 43 Sundancing.

The smaller boat Division 3 was won by Peter Bone’s Bavaria 38cr Baltic. In second place was Tracey De Poi’s Beneteau Oceanis 34 T’Ellen and in third overall by just half a point was Stuart Morrison-Jack’s Wright 10 Copyright.

Hidden Harbour Cruising Non Spinnaker

In spectacular fashion the two Moody 54 footers, Steven Richardson’s Moody Buoys and Grant Dunoon’s TryBooking.Com, speared their way around the four race courses, leading the 23-boat fleet. The winning trophy finally ended up in Richardson’s hands, but not before he and Dunoon tried everything to one-up each other.

In second was TryBooking.Com and in third overall, Robert Bradley’s Farr 38 Escapade.

The RK Group Classic Yachts
Among all the lightweight carbon fibre and latest aerodynamic 3Di sails the classic boats are the sentimental link to the Australian Day regatta’s origins back in 1844, even before the RGYC was founded.

What they lacked in fleet numbers at this year’s festival they made up for in grandeur, particularly James Woods’ Bermudan Sloop built in 1929, Windward II, which finished third overall.

Geoff Sadler’s Herlin classic sloop Lupa Wylo won this year’s honours in the RK Group Classic Yachts series. In second overall was William Newman’s Henry Morgan 31 Maatsuyker, winner of last year’s Cruising Spinnaker Division 3.

Rex Gorell Land Rover Rating Series
The Rating Series’ penultimate race 7 created the split tenacious interstate contender Geoff Boettcher’s Secret Mens Business needed to silence the Sydneysiders on Tony Kirby’s Ker 46 Patrice. After going race for race on corrected time to be on equal points Tuesday morning for the second day, a three IRC point winning margin must have felt like a whitewash to the Adelaide based TP52.

“It was plain sailing out there today(Tuesday 26 January, 2016), just one good boat against the other and whoever got the break won the regatta,” said Boettcher having extended his hand to his rival skipper on the dock and passed on “congratulations for giving us hell for a few days”. “They had some pretty hot sailors on Patrice; the final result made us feel a bit better… being boys from the back blogs of Adelaide.”

Forget changing things around on the boat or working on maneuvers before the next event, Boettcher’s biggest takeaway from the festival was, “Not to drink so many reds at night to calm our nerves”.

Third overall on IRC scoring and the AMS handicap win went to Alan Woodward’s Beneteau First 45, Reverie.

Division 2 IRC top honours belonged to Max Peters’ Adams 10 Top Gun, thanks to five firsts from nine races. Second overall on IRC was Andrew Slagmolen’s The Bookmaker, the AMS division 2 handicap victor, and third another Adams 10, Executive Decision (Grant Botica).

“The Adams 10 was designed in 1970, Top Gun was built in 1980 and our average crew age is 65; it’s hard work for old guys but experience counts,” Peters said. “It’s a known fact the Adams 10 is the eighth wonder of the world,” he says straight-faced. “We enjoyed the whole regatta and festival and we’d love to come back again next year.”

Optimum Time Super 11 Series
The gender-balanced Geelong crew on Cam Rae’s newly restored Thompson 920, Poco Loco, threw everything they had at Damian Thomas’ Melges 32 PP1 from Sydney’s northern beaches in the final two windward/leewards on Corio Bay. But it was the supreme consistency of another new owner and crew combination that made PP1 invincible.

“PP1 sailed an awesome regatta, they were the boat to catch and were too good over the duration,” Rae praised on the Australia Day afternoon, January 26, having picked up second overall in the sexy new Optimum time Super 11 Series. Not bad for their maiden regatta.

On the Super 11 concept trialed at the festival he added, “Sailing aso [asymmetric] boats against aso boats is great racing and the concept of Super 11s works for boats that rate equally bad on AMS and IRC.”

Third in division was Rod Warren’s J111 Joust from Sandringham Yacht Club.

PRO’s final words
Denis Thompson, RGYC sailing office staff and the huge team of regatta officials and volunteers made sure more than 2,000 sailors enjoyed fair sailing and a good time, had some final words.

“It’s been another great regatta, having wind always helps. We had typical and fairly steady Geelong sou’easters every day, that always makes the competitors happy and it makes regatta management a little bit easier. Plus the racing is super close. No-one can skip away.

“The Super 11 concept certainly has potential; it was good to see their inaugural championship at the Festival of Sails, and it was certainly exiting to watch the VX Ones get up and boogey when the breeze increased.

“Usually we lose a percentage of the cruising fleet after the passage race but this time virtually all stayed on for the series, making some of the fixed mark roundings spectacular.

“We ran five course areas on the biggest three days using mostly volunteers; one of those came all the way from the cold of Chicago. Every year it blows me away that the club’s pretty small base of volunteers can pull so many people in.”

RGYC has calculated its 173 volunteers for the 173rd Festival of Sails donated more than 6,000 hours of their time over the five day series that ran from January 22 – 26, 2016.

Two Australian Championships were decided at the festival and the RGYC encourages other classes to get in touch with its sailing office to discuss running their major titles on Corio Bay in January 2017 and beyond.

Full results for every division are at

All information relating to the 173rd edition of the historic regatta is on the website


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Courtesy: Tracey Johnstone

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