Classic fleet lining up for 179th Australia Day Regatta

Two past line honour winners of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, Brindabella and Fidelis, as well several top-performing yachts in the recent 70th edition of the ocean classic are among more than 100 entries for next Monday’s 179th Australia Day Regatta.

The traditional regatta on Sydney Harbour will have its emphasis on classic sailing craft, ranging from gaff-rigged 18-foot skiffs to long past Sydney Hobart winners such as Fidelis, while the Australia Day ocean race from Sydney Harbour to Botany Bay and return has attracted at least five yachts that contested the 70th Sydney Hobart.

The 50-year-old Fidelis,  line honours winner of the 1966 Sydney Hobart Race, will be skippered by current owner Nigel Stoke in the Classic non-spinnaker division while owner Jim Cooney has nominated Brindabella for both the harbour and ocean races. Brindabella took line honours in 1997, but was forced to retire from the 70th race.

Heading the Australia Regatta entrants in the Botany Bay race are Julian Farren-Price’s Cookson 12 About Time and Tony Kirby’s Ker 46 Patrice.

About Time recently won the Pittwater to Coffs Harhour Race while Patrice placed first in IRC Division and 9th overall in the 70th Rolex Sydney Hobart.  Another strong contender is Balance,  Paul Clitheroe’s TP52 which placed 4th in IRC Division 1 and,  as Quest,  is a former winner of the Australia Day Regatta Botany Bay race and a past Sydney Hobart winner.

Robin and Annette Hawthorn’s Imagination which finished 7th in IRC Division 3 is another entrant while others include Warwick Sherman’s Occasional Coarse Language, the dual-entered Brindabella and  Les Goodridge’s X50 Wax Lyrical.

Yachts in the Botany Bay race specifically entered for the 179th Australia Day Regatta will be competing for two coveted perpetual trophies,  the Geoff Lee Memorial Trophy for line honours and the City of Sydney Sesquicentennial Cup for first on corrected time.

 Two vintage ocean racing yachts in the Botany Bay race are John Maclurcan’s Morag Bheag and Kevin O’Shea’s Stormy Petrel,  a one-time winner of the One Ton Cup international championship.

In addition to Brindabella and Fidelis, famous yachts entered for the 179th Australia Day Regatta on Sydney Harbour include the International 8-metre Defiance,  RSYS Division 1 big boats Sydney and Braveheart, and Sydney Amateur Sailing Club class division boats Antares, Cherub, Mister Christian  and Reverie.

The 179th Australia Day Regatta remains the centrepiece of celebrations on Sydney Harbour, proudly proclaimed as the oldest continuously-conducted annual sailing regatta in the world,  having been held each year since 1837 to commemorate the anniversary of the First Fleet and with it the first European settlement in Australia.

The Harbour Regatta is conducted by the Australia Day Regatta Committee with the co-operation of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron while the Botany Bay short ocean race is conducted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia.

Over the years,  Australia Day regattas have been introduced in many waterways along the New South Wales coast and on inland dams and lakes, involving some 700 sailing vessels, including radio-controlled model yachts.

Flagship of the 179th Australia Day Regatta will be HMAS Canberra with the Matt Allen, president of the Australia Day Regatta, Yachting Australia president and former Commodore of the CYCA,  along with Regatta organising committee Chairman John Jeremy,  entertaining guests for lunch aboard the ship.

The Australia Day Botany Bay Race will start from Watsons Bay at 11am next Monday, January 26, while the 179th Australia Day Regatta on the Harbour gets under way at 1.15pm with the start and finish near the flagship HMAS Canberra.

– Peter Campbell

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