The Australia Day Regatta, proudly acclaimed as the oldest continuously-conducted annual sailing regatta in the world, has been held 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 coastal waterways in New South Wales. There is also a traditional offshore yacht race from Sydney Harbour to Botany Bay and return, sailing almost the same course as the First Fleet in January 1788 when Governor Phillip moved his ships from Botany Bay to Port Jackson (Sydney Harbor).
This year there will also be a link to Australia Day events in Hobart, the 164th Sandy Bay Regatta and the long distance Green Island Race.
Boats taking part in the 175th Australia Day Regatta will range from one-design and harbour racing yachts and 18-foot skiffs through to large ocean racers and radio controlled model yachts.
The Classic Yachts will race in a special division to mark the 175th anniversary, starting and finishing near the Flagship HMAS Ballarat. As they finish they will pass astern of the Flagship then sail up the Harbour and around Fort Dennison before heading to the Sydney Amateur Sailing Club in Mosman Bay for a huge raft-up and prizegiving,
Among the entries for the Classic Yachts division are several wooden, gaff-rigged yachts built more than a century ago, but lovingly restored by their current owners, the ‘custodians’ of these graceful sailing craft of yester year.
The 27-foot gaff-rigged yawl Killala is one, beautifully restored by shipwright Ian Thomas. Built in the mid 1890s, she will be skippered in the 175th Australia Day Regatta by Hugh Treharne, the tactician on Australia II in her America’s Cup victory at Newport, Rhode Island, in 1983.
Also competing will be Weene, originally a Tasmanian One Design class yacht which celebrated her centenary last October. Owner Ben Stoner, an antique restorer, still has her on the register of the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania and her sail number is RYCT 1, although she now races with the Sydney Amateur Sailing Club.
Several old metre-style yachts have entered, including Sydney Hobart Race winner Neville Crichton’s Plym, which carries the sail number US20, political commentator Ian Kortlang’s Antara, and Les Goodridge’s famous 8-metre class racer Erica J.
Former Sydney Hobart racers, now retired to smoother waters, have also entered the Classic Yachts division, including Nigel Stoke’s Fidelis, Philip Brown’s Anitra IV, David Salter’s Mister Christian and Maris, owned by Clean Up Australia founder Ian Kiernan.
Not only are the yachts of classic age. Bill Gale, now well into his eighties, again will be at the helm of his famous gaff-rigger Ranger, which he has helmed or crewed for the past 65 years. Ranger carries the SASC sail number A1 and will head a small fleet of younger Ranger class yacht competing in the Classic Yacht division.
The 175th Australia Day Regatta will start from near the Flagship at 1.15pm with the warning signal for Division A boats. Division starts will continue until 1.50pm when the Classic Yachts will begin their handicap start – with the ultimate hope of a spectacularly close finish back near HMAS Ballarat.
The colourful and over-canvassed Historical Skiffs, wooden replicas of 18-foot skiffs that raced on the Harbour early last century, will start with the main fleet, but the modern, high-tech18-footers will race on their own traditional courses around the Harbour.
Further information on the regatta www.australiadayregatta.com.au
By Peter Campbell. Image Copyright Australia Day Regatta.