181st Festival of Sails Passage Race Preview

The Festival of Sails Passage Race has a stellar line up of over 200 boats racing from the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron to the Royal Geelong Yacht Club for the 181st edition on Friday 26 January. 

With a dual warning signal at 9:30am the Mornington to Geelong Passage Race will commence at the same time from the other side of the Bay to meet with the majority of the fleet in Geelong. 

275 boats will take part in the 2024 Festival but arguably the most competitive section will come from the the premier end of the competitive forty to fifty-something foot fleet, which includes the winner of Division 1 on IRC in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, Seb Bohm’s TP52 Smuggler, Ray Roberts’ successful Botin 40 Hollywood, the Scarlet Runner, Maritimo 54, and local favourite Chutzpah, the Caprice 40 owned and skippered by Bruce Taylor. 

“We should do pretty well in the passage race although we have the ‘crème de la crème‘ at this event in the TP52’s, who should beat us home”, said Paul Bucholz, the Festival of Sails (FOS) Regatta Chairman and owner and skipper of the Cookson 50, Extasea. 

The newest boat in the fleet, the brand new Hooligan TP52 owned and skippered by Marcus Blackmore, will be tough to beat in her first race. The team have been training for the past few days in Melbourne ahead of the Festival of Sails and the boat’s first regatta. 

“I don’t think you really know how a boat will go until you get on the race track. But it is one of the lightest TP52’s ever built”, said owner and skipper of the new Hooligan, Marcus Blackmore. 

“Our first race for the boat will be the race down to Geelong. I didn’t spend all that money to go slow I can tell you, and I think we will do quite well”. 

The newest PP1, a Melges 40 delivered from Tasmania just a few weeks ago, was a late entry to FOS. 

“FOS seems to be a cornerstone of the PP1 calendar, so as soon as the new boat got through the Port Phillip heads I entered us in the regatta, there’s no way we were missing it. Beyond the boat, there has been some variation of the PP1 crew at FOS for well over 15 years” said Jeremey O’Connell, one of the core members of the PP1 crew. 

“The passage race always keeps us on our toes, it’s never simple! It will be great to have the two Melges 40’s lined up against each other [Veloce being the other] as well as all the other 40 foot planing boats, which seem to be making a resurgence in Melbourne”.

“At this point, we’re relying on the knowledge we’ve gained from previous iterations of PP1 – which was a Melges 32 and then a Cape 31. We all grew up sailing dinghies and we have some great skiff sailors onboard, so we feel like that will translate well to this boat. It’s hard to just mention some of the PP1 team, because it really is a superb group of people that go way beyond just sailing together, and that’s why the PP1 program is so good to be a part of. We are a great group of mates that are so lucky to be able to do this together.

From those boats doing their first Festival of Sails, to those who are stalwarts, it is reported that some local members of the fleet will be completing well over 50 editions this year. 

“This will be my 36th consecutive Festival of Sails. But I am just a newcomer to Geelong, I moved here from W.A.” said Paul “Bucky” Buchholz, FOS Regatta Chairman. 

“People come back year after year because the Festival of Sails not only provides close racing, but is a chance to catch up and chat with friendly rivals in what can only be described as a euphoric atmosphere of fun and frivolity”. 

For more information, to watch the official livestream on FOS social channels, or follow the results, head to www.festivalofsails.com.au

Images: Craig Greenhill for Salty Dingo
Words and more info:
Nic Douglass
Sailing Content / Official Media Partner
Festival of Sails 2024

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