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Festival of Sails Day 3: A classic legend returns to Victoria

by Di Pearson/Festival of Sails 27 Jan 2023 22:50 GMT 26-29 January 2023
Vittoria sail no 336 - Festival of Sails © Salty Dingo

Any yachting enthusiast worth their money would remember Victorian yachting legend, Lou Abrahams and Vittoria, the Sparkman and Stephens yacht he commissioned to replace his first offshore racing yacht, Odin.

Built by the famous Cec Quilkey at Taren Point in NSW in cold-moulded Oregon, Vittoria launched in 1970. Abrahams wanted a yacht that would see him selected for the Australian 1971 Admiral's Cup team, but just missed out, such was the competition in that era.

The Melbourne yachtsman contested nine Sydney Hobarts with the S&S 42 though, from 1970 to 1978, with a best result of fifth overall in 1970.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Abrahams, a serious offshore racer, eventually sold Vittoria. From 1979, the softly spoken gentleman raced his next yacht, Challenge II and represented Australia internationally with this and subsequent Challenges at the Admiral's and Kenwood Cups and won the Sydney Hobart twice.

However, Abrahams never lost sight of Vittoria. There is something about S&S designs built by Quilkey. Take Love & War, for instance, commissioned by Peter Kurts. Despite his death, the yacht remains in the family, owned now by his son, Simon. Kurts could not bear to part with his S&S 47 and she has done him proud, one of only three yachts to have won the Sydney Hobart three times.

Back to Vittoria, she is now owned by Alan Reece, the fourth owner of the yacht that now lives at Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club on Pittwater, north of Sydney. Reece, a lover of wooden boats, races her regularly in Classic yacht events and Wednesday afternoon races.

"Max Whitnell used to own her and I used to see his son Matt take the boat out a lot on his own. I've always loved S&S boats and by chance I saw Vittoria for sale at a brokers. I went for a sail and bought her that day! She was in immaculate condition."

Reece put a new deck on the yacht during June and July in 2022 and then raced her at Hamilton Island in August. "I bought it to use and believe me, we use it," he said.

"We took the boat back to Sandy (Sandringham Yacht Club where Lou Abrahams was a member and where Vittoria lived) on Wednesday. We raced it there and crossed the line first," Reece shared. "I reckon Louie would have loved it," he said.

"This is our first time here at the Festival of Sails. It's a very good event and we're enjoying ourselves immensely. We're looking forward to the Twilight Race they've organised on Corio Bay for this afternoon.

And well they might be enjoying themselves, Vittoria finished top Classic Boat overall in Thursday's 180th Passage Race. Darcey-Belle Roberts' Acrospire IV, representing the ACT, placed second and Scott Taylor's Marie Louise III from the host club was third.

"Next stop is the Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart, then home to Pittwater," Reece ended.

Held since 1844, the Festival of Sails continues on Corio Bay from 10.30am today.

For all information on the Festival of Sails, including full results, please visit: festivalofsails.com.au.

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