Grand times at Geelong

A view of the 2018 Wooden Boat Festival of Geelong, onshore with some of the couta boats in the foreground. Image: David Payne/ANMM.

A view of the 2018 Wooden Boat Festival of Geelong, onshore with some of the couta boats in the foreground. Image: David Payne/ANMM.

Wooden Boat Festival of Geelong, March 2018

The 9th Wooden Boat Festival of Geelong was held over the Victorian long weekend in mid-March, and it was another very successful event, drawing a big crowd over the three days. It was managed by the Royal Geelong Yacht Club and the GWBF committee, and featured a wide range of activities and displays on and off the water. Geelong is at the end of Corio Bay in the south west of Port Phillip. It has been a strong regional city and the yacht club has held, state, national and world championships over many years.

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Irene Pritchard, Sydney’s first female race skipper

Irene and her brothers Fred and Harry sailing <em>Zephyr</em>. Despite her highly impractical attire, Irene survived two capsizes in one season. Image William James Hall, ANMM Collection 00002619 Gift from Bruce Stannard.

Irene and her brothers Fred and Harry sailing Zephyr. Despite her highly impractical attire, Irene survived two capsizes in one season. Image William James Hall, ANMM Collection 00002619 Gift from Bruce Stannard.

‘This venturesome young lady’

On Christmas Eve 1898, Irene Pritchard became the first woman to race a sailing boat on Sydney Harbour. Skippering the tiny 8-footer (2.4 metre) Zephyr, she took to the front early and won her first race with two minutes to spare.

The Sunday Times reported the day of the race was ‘scarcely an ideal one for a trip on the water, the wind blowing strong and cold from the southward, while it rained pretty continuously throughout the afternoon.’ It said the 8-footers race ‘formed an exciting part of yesterday’s programme owing to the fact that one of the small racers was in charge of a lady, Miss Irene Pritchard. That victory fell to this venturesome young lady, is perhaps not so much to be wondered at as that she would risk a wetting and the possibility of a capsize on such a day as yesterday proved.’ 1

The next month Irene became the first woman to sail a winner in a Sydney regatta – the Anniversary (now Australia Day) Regatta. She only sailed for one season, but in that time her fame spread as far as Britain.

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The race of the century – America’s Cup 1983

The action for final race for the America’s Cup in 1983, dubbed ‘the race of the century’ by US skipper Dennis Conner, began well before the race started. Mindful of some starting issues, the Australians called for a lay day after race six to put some practice in. Meanwhile, the US team used this to optimise their yacht Liberty with ballast and sail area changes to make it faster in the expected lighter winds, something the Australians had wished they had thought of too.  Racing was abandoned for 24 September due to poor wind, and then the US team called a lay day themselves to do more work on Liberty, further irritating the Australians.

Two yachts on water

Australia II (KA 6) nicely out in front of Liberty in an earlier race, Sally Samins photographer.

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The America’s cup 30 years on

This week marks 30 years since an aspirational nation woke up to news that Australia had licked the Americans in a blue-blood yachting event, finally wresting the coveted America’s Cup from the nation which had held it for 132 years and fought off all challengers including long-standing Trans-Atlantic rivals England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada to its northern border and across the Pacific to Australia.

Two yachts on water

Australia II and Liberty racing in 1983. Photographer: Sally Samins. Reproduced courtesy the photographer. ANMM Collection Gift from Sally Samins

With the series tied at three races each, many Australians had stayed up all night to watch the cliff-hanger on television. The last race saw skipper John Bertrand lead his crew in Australia II in a tacking duel, crossing the line 41seconds ahead of veteran skipper Dennis Conner in Liberty. Continue reading

Kathleen Gillett on the harbour

Last Sunday the elegant Kathleen Gillett, usually moored at our museum wharves, took part in the Great Veteran’s Race on Sydney Harbour. With a crew made up of museum staff and volunteers, Kathleen Gillett made her way gracefully around the Great Veteran’s Harbour course, but unfortunately did not finish the race. We won’t hold that against the crew though!

The Great Veteran’s Race, is the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s annual tribute to those classic Sydney Hobart Yacht race yachts that sailed south in the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s and marks the opening of the Audi Winter Series.

Kathleen Gillett, a gaff-rigged ketch, was built in 1939 for Sydney marine artist Jack Earl to sail around the world. A founder of the Sydney-Hobart yacht race, Earl sailed Kathleen Gillett in the first race in 1945. Two years later, the ketch (named after Earl’s wife) circumnavigated the globe, only the second Australian yacht to do so. Kathleen Gillett’s venturesome career later included island trade and crocodile-hunting expeditions. In 1987, she was found in Guam and bought by the Norwegian government as a bicentennial gift to Australia.

Kathleen Gillett is moored at the museum’s wharves, along with our vast historic fleet and can be viewed any day of the year.

Below are some photographs of Kathleen Gillett in action last Sunday, what spectacular sight it was!

The race crew on board Cathleen Gillett

The race crew, including museum staff and volunteers on board Kathleen Gillett.

The beautiful Kathleen Gillett on Sydney Harbour

The beautiful Kathleen Gillett on Sydney Harbour

Kathleen Gillett on Sydney Harbour

Gliding on Sydney Harbour

Kathleen Gillett taking part in the Great Veterans Race on Sydney Harbour

The Great Veterans Race on Sydney Harbour