A local sailor opens the proceedings of the Festival of Sails • Live Sail Die
No sooner had the notice of race and entry form for the Festival of Sails (FOS) 2023 been published on the official website than local Geelong sailor Brendan Garner clicked through to register for his 36th year of competition at Australia’s oldest and largest keelboat regatta in the southern hemisphere.
“My first was in 1987 when I was 12. It was on Dad’s Etchells in the Passage Race,” sailor Leopold recalled of the regatta, which was inaugurated in 1844 and is organized annually by the Royal Geelong Yacht Club (RGYC).
“I’m doing the Course du Passage on my cruise ship ‘Mustique’. Then I’ll fly my Etchells, “Panther”, doing the Guyon Wilson series.
The Passage Race celebrates its 180th anniversary when the FOS takes place from January 26-28: “It is a very impressive milestone for the Royal Geelong Yacht Club to have such a long and continuous event,” commented Garner.
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“It’s a high point on the calendar for sailors in Victoria and across the country. It’s spectacular to see the departure from the shore or on the water. I simply cannot miss the Course du Passage. Once the race is over, the boat turns into accommodation for the regatta.
As usual, the Festival of Sails is a family affair for the Garner family. “My eldest son Ben (17) will be sailing with me and possibly the other two – I haven’t checked with them yet. Josh (who turns 14 next week) and Will (10) will be racing in the cadets on Sunday, as will Ben, who is sailing with Will.
“Children learn life skills in Cadet; they learn the nature of caring for someone. Garner counted. “My 17 and 10 year olds sail together, so when Will was seven, Ben looked after him, for example.”
A family member will be missing in 2023. Garner’s father, John.
“Dad passed away earlier this year. We last did the Passage Race together two years ago. It was his last,” Garner revealed.
John was a huge supporter of the event that he sailed for so many years, while fulfilling several roles at the RGYC during 40 years of service. His son continues the tradition, having joined the council last year.
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Garner holds the annual regatta in high regard: “A lot of it is about reuniting with friends from previous years and previous events. The social aspect I find very good. Just like sailing. And the atmosphere of the festival is very fun.
A multifaceted sailor, from 7 to 17 years old, he sailed in the International Cadet class, moved on to the Fireballs, then to the 29ers, 49ers, did Team racing in the Tasar and match racing in the Elliott 5.9. Let’s go back to the Fireball “when the kids came”. Garner also raced a Mumm 30 with Bruce Eddington, winning the Australian and Australian Super 30 titles and they raced the Route de Illes in France.
The sailor from Geelong moved into Etchells and SB30, with wins in both. He also won the Sydney 38 Australian Championship over Kirwan Robb’s Ikon.
Offshore sailing has also retained its appeal. In 2011, Garner crossed the Atlantic from the United States to England. He played in six Sydney Hobarts, with a second place overall in 2010 on Jazz. He also had division wins in three Hobarts. The last was in 2013, with the second on Senna, the yacht he skippered for owner, Chris Manton.
Garner says of his sailing longevity, “It’s always been sailing, it’s in our blood.”
And it goes further. His company is Garner Marine Services in Geelong.
“We’re even building the occasional Cadet – I have the mold. We’re building three for the upcoming Worlds. My second son and Nate Field built their Cadet in 2018, which I oversaw. It was pretty cool and Josh still uses the boat today.
For NoR and to participate in the Festival of Sails online, please visit: https://festivalofsails.com.au/