Laafin from Phillip Island to Port Phillip for maiden Festival of Sails

 After November 30, entrants for next January’s Festival of Sails will be no longer be able to take advantage of the $50 early entry discount, and will sadly miss the chance to win a holiday for two to tropical Fiji after this Sunday’s early bird cut-off.

One yacht already entered, and in the running for the holiday is Festival debutant Kon Cili with his 1984-built Currawong 30 called Laafin. Kon is one of an expanding number of Cruising with Spinnaker registrations grabbing the early bird offer and in with a shot for the Fijian holiday prize.

While it doesn’t have Fiji’s climate, island life is not new to Kon. He lives at Newhaven on Victoria’s Phillip Island, 87 kilometres SSE of Melbourne, where his yacht is moored. Newhaven Yacht Squadron’s marina berths 165 yacht and motor boats and is home to a substantial sea-going community. Kon is an active NYS committee member as the club’s Social Secretary.

He came to know Geelong and the Festival host, the Royal Geelong Yacht Club, via his involvement with Variety Splash. As one of the charity event’s most generous supporters, Laafin’s skipper and crew have helped raise more than $70,000 for Variety the children’s charity over six years of participating.

This year he has put the call out to the crew to sail his beloved Laafin 17 hours one-way through Bass Strait and Port Phillip heads to be on the start line of the Festival’s opening Passage Race from Melbourne to Geelong on Friday January 23, 2015. The response was a resounding YES!

The passage sail to and from Phillip Island hasn’t always been kind to Laafin. The Peter Joubert design has been battered by strong winds and very bad weather multiple times. “So far Laafin and her crew are leading 3:0 against Mother Nature,” crows the proud skipper.

“All my life I was a water person, an amateur long distance swimmer in my younger days. I love water in every possible way” says Kon, who was born in Croatia and always dreamt of owning a boat. Though he lived in a capital city he would holiday as a child at his grandfather’s on the Adriatic coast. Later as teenager he did odd jobs during the school holidays with builders to save up for holidays on the Croatian coast.

After arriving in Australia in 1972, he worked hard and built a very good life. He started out owning fishing and cruising boats then through a new relationship in his forties was introduced to sailing. “I fell in love with the sailing. I said that’s it! I am not going to have fishing boats, I love this sailing!”

It’s a safe bet that Laafin will be the only Newhaven Yacht Squadron entrant for the Festival of Sails. Cili recalls a couple of trailer boat owners from Phillip Island making the journey to Geelong at least five years ago.

Entries are climbing towards the first 150 and the Cruising with Spinnaker owners are showing the way in terms of early paperwork.

Regatta manager Peter Kirman says, “It’s great to hear about first timers coming to the Festival. We’re also getting entries from those who haven’t participated for a few years, but are coming back for 2015. The racing program will be to the usual high standard and will be supported by some new and exciting shoreside entertainment. We’ve done a lot of behind the scenes work to ensure that next January’s Festival will be the best one for some time.”

Royal Geelong Yacht Club is gearing up for its busiest summer of sailing yet. Last January the world’s best Melges 24 sailors discovered the magic of Corio Bay. In 2015 the natural ampitheatre, with its flat-water and trusty sea breeze, is the stage for the International 14 World Championship followed by the Australian Multihull Championships starting Saturday January 17. Finally the historic Australia Day weekend regatta for the bulk of the fleet, from sports boats and classics to monohulls and multihulls, will play out Friday January 23 to Monday 26 (Australia Day).

The first component, the multihull title is likely to draw 25 plus racing and cruising trimarans and catamarans from around the country. Then the regatta proper is expected to exceed a whopping 300 entrants.

Owners who complete their 2015 Festival of Sails entry, including full payment, before 2400hrs November 30, 2014 can take advantage of the early bird discount of AUS$50.

Owners who submit online entries by midnight on the same day go in a draw to win a magnificent getaway for two to tropical Fiji including flights and five nights’ accommodation at the Shangri-La Fijian, all supplied by Geelong Travel.



– Lisa Ratcliff – Festival of Sails Media

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