178th Melbourne to Geelong Passage Race maintains tradition

178th Melbourne to Geelong Passage Race maintains tradition

Kicking off at 9:30am from Williamstown, a strong fleet of over 140 boats raced down Port Phillip toward the finish line in Geelong in the 178th running of the iconic Melbourne to Geelong Passage Race on 24 January.

While the full Festival of Sails program was cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Royal Geelong Yacht Club (RGYC) was thrilled to have maintained the tradition of the Passage Race in its 178th edition, presented by MacGlide.

The race kicked off from Melbourne in warm conditions and a very light south easterly, just being sufficient in getting the boats away. Starting off well and leading the fleet off the line included the double handed boats “Unprecedented”, “2Up” and “RMS Cole Walker”.

RGYC Vice Commodore and Race Chairman Roger Bennett said the fleet filled Port Philip with colour and action on the 35 nautical mile course.

“While we are disappointed to not be able to deliver the full Festival of Sails experience in 2021, it was great to be able to offer this iconic Passage Race to our sailing community,” Vice Commodore Bennett said.

“We are proud to receive the support for this special edition of the race and look forward to welcoming Sailors back to the Royal Geelong Yacht Club and waters of Corio Bay for a huge Festival of Sails in 2022.”

Geelong based boat, “Extasea”, skippered by RGYC Life Member Paul Buchholz, was the first to cross the finish line in 3 hours and 43 minutes, taking home line honours and third place on handicap in Division One for the 2021 Passage Race.

This year’s race also featured a strongly contested Two-Handed Series, with the inclusion of all the new Jeanneau Sun Fast 3300 Class boats based in Melbourne.

This Class is at the forefront of Two-Handed keelboat racing world-wide and is expected to be a new addition into future Olympic offshore sailing events.

RGYC first added a Two-Handed Division to the Passage Race at the 2020 Festival of Sails, being one of the first major international regattas to do so.

38 South Boat Sales Managing Director, Rohan Veal launched his new Jeanneau Sun Fast 3300 “7empest” only last week, having the vessel ready for its first sail yesterday.

At only a couple of days old, the newest boat in the country competed in the nation’s oldest race, along with a strong and competitive fleet with highly credentialed crew.

As a seasoned Passage Race competitor on various other vessels, Rohan said it was exciting to compete in this year’s Two-Handed Division for the first time with his new boat, which is only the 7th model in Australia.

“Festival of Sails is an awesome event, and while it wasn’t possible this year, it was great to be able to continue the Passage Race tradition,” Rohan said.

“The Passage Race is the perfect race for these two-handed vessels – it’s a great challenge and a lot of fun.”

The winners of the Two-Handed Division were Olympic hopefuls Barney Walker and Jade Cole onboard “RMS Cole Walker”. They now add this title to their credentials, after also winning the Rudder Cup – the 195 nautical mile Melbourne to Devonport race.

The historic 12-metre yacht “Kookaburra” was also amongst the fleet yesterday, being a regular participant for many years.