No sooner do our feet hit the ground after Hobart, here we all are heading off for another Geelong week, or Festival of Sails as it’s more recently known. For many Victorian sailors Geelong week is our first introduction to regatta racing and an annual event not to be missed. It doesn’t actually go for a week - more of an extended long weekend, which is probably a good thing for our kidneys, or is it livers? Both probably I guess.
I think this is my 5th Geelong regatta. The first 2 on Mistress an RP36, the boat I learnt to sail on, the third one a combination of Gusto an open 66 for the passage to & from and Cloud IX a Beneteau 36 for round the sticks, last year on Hartbreaker the RP46 which was still called Shamrock at the time and this year, I’m thrilled to be back sailing with the Lewis family & crew on the very beautiful Geomatic Allegro a Warwick 67.
The regatta starts with a passage race from Melbourne to Geelong which typically takes around 4-5 hours, although that somewhat depends on how many wind holes you hit on the way down. The first year, it took 9 hours. That was pretty much 5 hours of sitting in the sun going nowhere, until we essentially gave up & cracked open the beers, then, you guess it, the wind magically appeared. A quick skulk through the back of the fleet and we finally made it. That particular boat then sunk in the marina overnight 2 days later… not ideal. There’s nothing more depressing than leaving a sailing race on a train, which come to think of it has happened on 2 separate occasions now! It might sound like that was a bit miserable, but all said & done; it was a great regatta - as they all have been. Anyway, with around 200 boats out on the water in Geelong, there are plenty of divisions to choose from and this year on Allegro we’re cruising with spinnakers. One of the things I love about sailing is the variety of ways to go sailing. More recently the majority of my time has been on ocean racing boats, which usually means being wet a lot of the time, sleeping on sails wedged in between the engine bay & the lockers, hours of sitting on the rail, instant coffee, dependence on baby wipes to get the salt off, taking no more than a 15L bag on-board, a head with no door and a constant fight to get the seacocks open…heels & hairdryers need not apply. All good fun of course!
In stark contrast, sailing on Allegro involves mastering the latte machine, choosing which of the 3 bathrooms to use, yes with FLUSHING toilets AND showers!! Should you actually get wet, deciding whether to walk your gear through to the drying (Bahamas) room maintained at a constant 37.5 degrees, past the cabins with beds that have proper sheets & pillows, or pop it straight down the hatch from the second cockpit. Meanwhile the multi zone air conditioning will have kicked in the G&T’s/ Bloody Mary’s/French champagne will be served in proper glassware from the bar, with dishwasher at the ready for clean-up. Of course the on-board laundry (pffft, yes of course washer AND dryer!) ensure the crew are always spotless. I won’t even mention the printer and ironing board, what… doesn’t every boat have one? Obviously upstairs there’s furling and self- tacking everything and teak as far as they eye can see. The only real concern is ‘will the ice-maker pull its weight’, but of course if it doesn’t the boat churns out its own fresh water supply that you could just pop in the freezer. No risk that those G&T’s won’t be icy cold!
So while it goes without saying that we’ll be racing hard, we’ll also be racing in style and comfort and it will be as much fun as it is competitive. Ok - to be honest, fun will probably win out! Favourite catch cry of owner Adrian Lewis on toughing it out on a regular boat.... “It just doesn’t have to be like that.”. I’m starting to think he’s right.
Aaaaahhhh, 27 tonnes of luxury and carbon fibre - Allegro…You had me at hello!