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Australia Day Regatta: famous yachts set for Sydney event

Sydney starting in last year's Australia Day Regatta. (Credit  John Jeremy)

Sydney starting in last year's Australia Day Regatta. (Credit John Jeremy)

Several of Australia’s most famous racing yachts will line up in next Sunday’s 178th Australia Day Regatta on Sydney Harbour while many prominent offshore racers will contest the traditional Australia Day race from Sydney to Botany Bay and return.

Entries for the Regatta close tomorrow Monday, January 9, with the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron which conducts the behalf of the Australia Day Regatta Inc. Entries for the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s race to Botany Bay close on Thursday.

The Australia Day Regatta, proudly acclaimed as the oldest continuously-conducted annual sailing regatta in the world, has been conducted each year since 1837 to commemorate the anniversary of the first European settlement of Australia.

Originally known as the Anniversary Regatta, this colourful event is held on Sydney Harbour, where it began, and also at other locations in New South Wales and offshore.

Boats taking part range from large ocean-racing yachts to 18 foot skiffs and radio controlled model yachts. In recent years some 700 vessels have taken part in the Australia Day Regatta making it one of the highlights of the celebrations on Australia Day each year.

A feature of the Australia Day Regatta luncheon aboard the Royal Australian Navy flagship HMAS Choules will be the launching of a history of the Regatta, originally known as the Anniversary Regatta and dating back to 1837. Guests will include the Governor of New South Wales, Ms Marie Bashir, Defence Chiefs and Civic leaders.

Historical skiffs made a spectacular sight on Australia Day.  (Credit  John Jeremy)

Historical skiffs made a spectacular sight on Australia Day. (Credit John Jeremy)

 

The Botany Bay Race for the City of Sydney Sesquicentenary Trophy starts from Watsons Bay at 11.00am; the 178th Australia Day Regatta gets under way at 1.30pm, with the start and finish near HMAS Choules.

Heading the Classic 1 division in the Harbour regatta is the former America’s Cup challenger Gretel II, beautifully restored by owner/skipper Michael Maxwell. Other great yachts of the past in this division include Anitra V (Philip Brown) and Mister Christian (David Salter).

Classic 2 division includes Bill Gale’s Ranger, the gaff-rigger that has probably sailed in every Australia Day Regatta since she was launched in 1933.

Brindabella, arguably the most famous Sydney Hobart maxi yacht, now owned by Jim Cooney, will race in the Division 1 for modern yachts, competing for line honours against Australia Day Regatta President Charles Curran’s Sydney.

Brindabella won line honours in the 1997 Sydney Hobart and last month contested her 21st race to Hobart, finishing 17th in line honours in the 94 boat fleet. Sydney retired from ocean racing some years back but is still a regular competitor in the RSYS Division 1 races on the Harbour.

In addition to the various keelboat divisions the Australia Day Regatta will again see the Historical Skiffs in action while the modern 18-footers will race for the Lord Mayor’s Cup.

The Botany Bay Race is expected to attract between 30 and 40 ocean racers, including competitors from the recent Rolex Sydney Hobart. The race is the first post-Hobart event in the Grant Thornton Short Ocean Pointscore and the Grand Thornton Ocean Pointscore.

While the City of Sydney Sesquicentenary Ocean Race Trophy is for handicap honours, the fastest yachts will be racing for the Geoff Lee Memorial Trophy.

Last year winner on corrected time was Paul Clitheroe’s Balance while line honours went to Dick Cawse’s Vanguard.

By Peter Campbell