By Roger Grant
Every time I sail from Melbourne to Geelong in the ‘passage race’ as part of the Festival of Sails I realise just how fortunate we sailors are here in Geelong.
The Melbourne end of Port Phillip Bay is usually both choppy and sloppy as the dominant wind has had the full length of the bay to make its mark.
Nature’s gifts abound here in Geelong including our north facing Corio Bay, the Bellarine Peninsula protecting our southern flank and of course that most important factor in sailing, the constant south westerly breeze. The combination of all these natural factors is that magic combination that dominates sailor’s dreams (not that dream!) – flat water and strong true winds.
It is little wonder then that so many keel and off the beach boats participate in Geelong’s Festival of Sails. Held each year around Australia Day this regatta is the largest keel boat regatta in the Southern Hemisphere eclipsing high profile events like the Sydney to Hobart with over 300 boats taking part in the Festival. First held in 1844, the regatta is one of Australia’s and Victoria’s oldest sporting events (14 years older than the first Australian Rules football game, 17 years older than the first running of The Melbourne Cup and 38 years before the first Ashes Test.)
Not all the action takes place on the water as another joy of sailing in Geelong is that the Royal Geelong Yacht Club is within a short walk of great restaurants, most of which feature the award winning wines from Geelong and The Bellarine. Having said that, nothing’s better than a cold Furphy beer at the end of a hard day’s sailing and its bound to be fresh as Little Creature’s Brewery is just over the hill from the club and located in South Geelong.
The killer combination of flat water and wind of Corio Bay is no longer a global secret with an increasing number of world championships and showcase sailing events scheduled for Geelong.
Further to the history of the regatta, today the Festival is a showcase of the latest technology and sail design. Geelong will stage a leg of the inaugural National Series for the Superfoilers in February of 2018. These high tech carbon fibre wonders bring together space age aerodynamics and hydrodynamic excellence that more closely resembles an aircraft than a yacht.
I can’t wait to witness the Superfoiler speed and action on Corio Bay and lament my progressive years and lack of mobility and skill to take part. Still the joy of sailing is that even old blokes like me can participate every weekend…even if it is in the cruising division – but regardless of age, ability and what you sail on its always a blessing to be sailing on Corio Bay and feeling sorry for those poor sods bouncing around at the top of the bay.