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Sailors from around Australia and across the seas descend on Geelong for Festival of Sails

by Jessica Gabites 27 Jan 2019 09:16 GMT 26-28 January 2019

Australia's biggest celebration of sailing has an increasingly international flavour with the 2019 Festival of Sails welcoming crews from the United States and Malaysia, as well as sailors from every state and territory.

Sandra Askew from Salt Lake City, Utah, is competing in the VX One Australian Championships during the regatta.

Askew is sailing with fellow Americans Jason Currie and Will Van Cleef on a boat called Flying Jenny, which she named after her mother, after buying the boat in New Zealand ahead of the regatta.

Enjoying her first time in Australia, Askew said she was "so excited and grateful to be here".

"What a fantastic place to sail," she said.

"It reminds me of how sailing used to be in the United States. It's great seeing all the sailboats with flags flying, it's fantastic. I will definitely be coming back."

Askew said she was inspired to compete in the Festival of Sails after her husband competed in the 2017 Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

"He was raving about this place, so here I am."

Sailors from the Royal Selangor Yacht Club in Port Klang, just outside Kuala Lumpur, were also enjoying day two of the Festival of Sails.

The crew of four is competing in the three-day regatta (J24 Corio Bay Series) for the first time, thanks to sponsorship from AirAsia, the world's best low-cost carrier, and support from Avalon Airport.

Skipper Jeff Harris said he was "really, really impressed with the event and seeing so many boats on the water".

About 200,000 people are expected to enjoy the festivities of the Geelong Waterfront this weekend as the city plays host to two major events this long weekend the historic Festival of Sails and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.

Festival of Sails Chairman Stuart Dickson said "we've always known what a great event the Festival of Sails is and we are delighted to be sharing it with more of our interstate and international friends".

Two Tasmanian boats, Philosopher and Whistler, are also taking part in this weekend's regatta.

Philosopher skipper Shaun Tiedemann said this was the third year in a row the crew had competed at the Festival of Sails.

"Festival of Sails is an awesome event attracting the biggest race fleets in Australia, he said. "Corio Bay offers a great sailing venue giving fair sailing to competitors. We just love sailing here."

Philosopher runs different crews which are fundamentally built around Shaun's son and his friends all champion dinghy and one design sailors.

"We love the racing here," he said. "The social side is brilliant. The Royal Geelong Yacht Club's organisation of this event is outstanding."

Meanwhile, former Olympian and America's Cup hero Sir James Hardy was a special guest at the Skippers' Breakfast this morning. Sir James is the ambassador of the 2019 regatta.

Yesterday, the world champion yachtsman, businessman, winemaker and community leader said he thought "sailing was as close to nature as you can get. I love it".

"The Festival of Sails is a crown jewel of the sport, absolutely."

The Waterfront Festival, proudly presented by Geelong Connected Communities, was the place to be today with people enjoying live music, regional produce and activities including Come and Try Sailing.

The Waterfront Festival action will include performances tonight from Vika & Linda, Libby Steel and Horns of Leroy. The Festival of Sails continues until tomorrow afternoon.

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