Batten down the hatches, the 2019 Festival of Sails is making its return.
As one of Australia’s oldest sporting events (and the largest keelboat regatta in the southern hemisphere) the Royal Geelong Yacht Club’s Festival of Sails has played a key part in the Victorian and Australian yachting calendar since 1844, attracting more than 300 entries, 3,000 competitors and 100,000 visitors annually to Geelong to experience the incredibly competitive and diverse event.
Next year will mark the 176th regatta, which kicks off with the visually spectacular celebration of the Melbourne to Geelong Passage Race on Australia Day Saturday, January 26.
The 2018 edition saw a huge fleet of 300 yachts – more starters than the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race which is known as one of the most gruelling ocean races in the world – charging from the northern end of Port Phillip Bay to the waters of Corio Bay for the 32 nautical mile race, on the first day of the regatta.
With entries already on track to exceed 300 for the 2019 event (including that of Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban from NSW, the winner of the 2017 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and 2018 Festival of Sails IRC Division 1), organisers are expecting this year to be a real bumper event.
“It’s an iconic event, with really good racing on the beautiful flat waters of Corio Bay, with good winds, which is a real attraction for yachties,” Festival of Sails Chairman, Stuart Dickson says. “From the general public point of view the whole waterfront will be full of activities from one end to the other, catering for people of all ages.”
Alongside the world class sailing on Corio Bay, the Regatta Village precinct will again be a hub of activity for sailors and public alike. With entry to the area free for all patrons, this entertainment hub is a drawcard of the Festival of Sails, creating a free community celebration that brings the Geelong Waterfront to life with a Regional Artisan Fair boasting exciting gourmet offerings from Geelong, the Great Ocean Road, the Bellarine Peninsula and Golden Plains, activities like Come and Try sailing, stand up paddle boarding and virtual reality sailing; and of course the glittering spectacle of a waterfront fireworks display!
A highlight for us here at Forte is most definitely the live music program which will see up to 30 different artists performing live across two stages, over three days.
So who can we expect to rock the Geelong waterfront this Australia Day long weekend?
First up, Ceres-raised singer Taylor Henderson, who shot to fame in 2013 when he was the runner-up on the X Factor, will return home as one of the acts headlining a stellar line-up of entertainment for the three-day regatta. With two #1 ARIA albums already behind him, the 25 year old recently dropped his first single for 2018 back in August off the back of his national tour of the same name ‘Love somebody’ which will continue into 2019. You can expect Henderson to serenade you with all the hits and yet to be released music off his forthcoming album from the Waterfront Stage, Eastern Beach Reserve on Saturday, January 26 ahead of the popular Australia Day fireworks display which will light up the sky at 9.15pm.
Joining Henderson as headliners for the weekend, Aussie music icon Russell Morris and formidable sister act Vika & Linda will also shine at Australia’s biggest celebration of sailing.
Morris is a man that needs no introduction. As a key player to the Australian music scene and a certified ARIA award-winning legend, Morris will be one act to get to as he performs songs from his successful 50 year career, such as his 1969 psychedelic number one hit, ‘The Real Thing’ on the Saturday night after the fireworks in the Regatta Village.
Taking to the same stage, music lovers will be treated to the glorious voices of sisters Vika & Linda Bull on Sunday night (January 27). Since their multi-platinum conquest of pop radio with The Black Sorrows in the late 80s, the sisters have forged diverse pathways into soul, gospel, blues and country, performing with Paul Kelly, Rockwiz, C.W. Stoneking, Deborah Conway and Kasey Chambers to name a few.
Meanwhile, Whole Lotta Rosie – hailed as the best AC/DC tribute show Australia has ever seen – will also perform on Saturday in the Regatta Village. The Melbourne based band includes artists from some of Aussie’s favourite bands, including The Angels and the Choirboys. Other highlights of the entertainment program include Melbourne’s premier New Orleans style brass brand, Horns of Leroy performing on Sunday, on the Regatta Village Stage and soulful pop artist Taylor Sheridan performing on Saturday on the Waterfront stage.
“It is fantastic to be once again welcoming such an impressive line-up of entertainers to the Festival of Sails. The entertainment is always a highlight for our participants and visitors, a chance to unwind after a big day of sailing,” Dickson says.
“Along with our headline acts, there will be dozens of other must-see performances, including local artists, spread out over the long weekend so festival-goers can bring a picnic and settle in for the afternoon.”
As for the local talent, this event truly showcases the crème de la crème.
Kid’s entertainment dynamos The Mik Maks will once again entertain the crowds, both young and old on Saturday on the Waterfront Stage. Born and bred on farming land in the Victoria’s west, The Mik Maks have been wowing their young audiences all over the country with their catchy country rock tunes. If you’ve got a young family, come and see why The Mik Maks are taking Australian kids music by storm.
Next we’ve got Jan Juc-based indie-pop up-and-comer Libby Steel, who performed at the Queenscliff Music Festival last month, and who will also entertain crowds on Sunday from the Waterfront Stage. The Western Victorian rocket has made waves in the industry, known for her unique, bold and colourful pop music. Her 2017 single ‘Bones’ captured the attention of triple j & Unearthed where she received stellar reviews from presenters praising her “big and versatile voice in a clever pop song”, claiming she’s “part Lily Allen and part Saskwatch. It’s a winning combo”. Weaving her way into the music scene, taking her animated, dynamic set across the country. From playing at the Australian Open, to supporting Taylor Henderson on aforementioned recent tour, she is bound to draw you in and leave you wanting more.
As for the public holiday on the Monday, Torquay local’s Maximillian Rudd and Tess Guthrie are set to wow crowds from the Waterfront Stage, providing the event a healthy dose of coastal home-grown entertainment.
A regular on the local circuit, Guthrie became an online sensation earlier this year after penning a song to help a mate leave her dickhead boyfriend; wanting to see her friend in a happier place again and recognise that she would be better off without him. Not only was the song a little gem for the message laying within, but Guthrie’s beautiful folky vocals, accompanied with sweet subtle guitar tones is one that would caress your ears, leaving you wishing every life problem could be solved with a tune like hers. Rudd will then provide the perfect follow up with his unique music, a fusion of Latin American, jazz, blues and roots influences. A natural talent, Rudd’s performances engage with seasoned ears, hinting at the ‘this and that’ of modern guitar culture, sewing it all together with the subtle creativity of an eclectic musical upbringing.
Oh, and did we mention the music is completely free?
It is worth noting however that while free of charge to the public, the Regatta Village area is a controlled area after 5pm and wristbands are mandatory for access. You can register for wristbands to gain access for the Saturday and Sunday night by heading online (www.trybooking.com/YULR). These wristbands are strictly limited though so you won’t want to stew on it too long – and again, it’s free! Wristband registrations are limited to two per person.
The Eastern Beach Reserve area does not require a wristband and will operate from 10am until 9pm (Saturday and Sunday), and 10am until 5pm (Monday).
Whether you are a sailor, or prefer your feet on more solid ground, this event provides something for everyone to enjoy, from thrilling sailing action, exciting on water activities for all to try, and a great way to spend quality time with your family over the Australia Day Long Weekend.
2019 Festival of Sails runs from Saturday January 26 to Monday January 28. For more information about the Festival of Sails visit www.festivalofsails.com.au