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Geelong sailor Nick Lee during the Festival of Sails © Salty Dingo
Geelong sailor Nick Lee during the Festival of Sails © Salty Dingo

Final day of the Festival of Sails

Geelong teenager and budding sailor Nick Lee has grown up on the water and was one of almost 3000 competitors who took part in this weekend’s historic 175th running of the annual Festival of Sails.

“My parents bought a boat when I was six months old and I reckon I’ve been on a boat ever since,” the fifteen year old said. Nick has been sailing competitively for the past couple of years and was the youngest crewmember on the boat ‘Bundaberg’.

Bundaberg was competing in the Division One Cruising with Spinnaker category, during the event which is the largest keel boat regatta in the southern hemisphere.

Nick is part of a growing trend of young sailors taking up what has traditionally been known as a sport for older men.

“It’s really great fun and it doesn’t matter what age you are you can enjoy it. I enjoy everything about it,” he said.

Festival of Sails Chairman Peter Alexander said despite sizzling temperatures the weather didn’t deter tens of thousands of people from flocking to the waterfront for the 2018 Festival of Sails, including a bumper crowd on Australia Day.

“The 175th anniversary of the Festival of Sails was a fantastic celebration of both our history and our future,” he said.

About 100,000 people are believed to have enjoyed the atmosphere of Victoria’s oldest event, which this year returned to the Australia Day long weekend.

The Festival of Sails injects millions of dollars into the local Geelong economy.

Last year’s event attracted an economic benefit of $12 million. While this year’s figures are yet to be finalised, Mr Alexander said the weekend had been another great success.

For the first time the Festival of Sails, which is sponsored by Rex Gorell Land Rover, coincided with the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.

“The combination of these two major sporting events generated an unprecedented amount of sporting activity and entertainment around our waterfront. It was definitely an exciting weekend for Geelong.”

Mr Alexander said it was great to see so many boats of all sizes out on the water and so many people getting into the spirit of the event both on the water along the waterfront.

“The racing at the Festival of Sails is always spectacular and this year’s regatta didn’t disappoint. Despite the weather making for some challenging conditions for competitors, there was plenty of exciting racing over the weekend.”

This year’s event attracted 300 boats of all sizes to Geelong with entries representing all Australian states and participants from New Zealand and Norway.

The Geelong Connected Communities Waterfront Festival at Steampacket Gardens and Transvaal Square had plenty on offer with the RAAF Roulettes precision flying team and the traditional Australia Day fireworks two of the crowd favourites.

At the close of competition, Sydney to Hobart winner Ichi Ban – skippered by Matt Allan – was the winner of the prestigious Rex Gorell Land Rover IRC Division 1 trophy.

The 2019 Festival of Sails will be held from Australia Day Saturday, January 26 to Monday, January 28.

For more information visit event website.

by Jessica Gabites

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