Australia Day Regatta 2013 - Better with time

Gretel II competing in the Australia Day Green Island Race on Hobart’s River Derwent two years ago
Peter Campbell
The Australia Day Regatta 2013 will feature more than 160 yachts and skiffs sailing on Sydney Harbour on Saturday, 26 January 2013. Gretel II, one of the most famous sailboats in Australian yachting history, will also participate in the upcoming event.

One of the most famous yachts in Australian yachting history, Gretel II, heads a fleet of more than 160 yachts and skiffs entered for the 177th Australia Day Regatta to be sailed on Sydney Harbour and offshore on Saturday, 26 January 2013.

The one-time challenger for the America’s Cup, when the contest was between classic 12-metre class yachts, has been fully restored and modernised by her current owner, Sydney yachtsman Mike Maxwell.

Gretel II will be unchallenged Queen of the Fleet when she contests the Classic Division 1 of the 177th Australia Day Regatta.

To quote author David Salter in a feature article in the official programme of the 177th Australia Day Regatta, Gretel II still retains 'the powerful mystique of a genuine international classic racing yacht', and will make 'any true sailor’s heart miss a beat as she sweeps past in all her majesty.'

Historical skiff under full sail in the 2012 Australia Day Regatta
Peter Campbell


The Australia Day Regatta, proudly acclaimed as the oldest continuously-conducted annual sailing regatta in the world, has been held each year since 1837 to commemorate the anniversary of the first European settlement of Australia.

Originally known as the Anniversary Regatta, this colourful event is held on Sydney Harbour, where it began, and also at other locations in New South Wales and offshore.

In recent years some 700 vessels have taken part in the Australia Day Regatta, making it one of the highlights of the celebrations on Australia Day, 26 January each year. With this extension of the Regatta, boats taking part range from large ocean-racing yachts to 18 foot skiffs, both modern and historical, and radio controlled model yachts.

Gretel II’s competition in Classic Division 1 including former Sydney Hobart racing yachts Margaret Rintoul and Anitra V and Weene, a Tasmanian One Design class yacht built in Hobart more than a century ago.

Among the entries in Classic Division 2 are Ranger, skippered by octogenarian Bill Gale, and Solveig, owned by ABC television and radio presenter Angela Catterns and Charlie Chan.

Adding the nostalgia of the 177th Australia Day Regatta, sponsored for the tenth year by Commonwealth Private, will be a fleet or ten Historical Skiffs, exact replicas of the iconic Sydney 18-footers that raced early last century. They are named after famous skiffs of that era, such as Scot, Britannia, Australia IV and Yendys.

The 18ft Sailing League’s state-of-the-art 18-footers will also race during the 117th Australia Day Regatta for the Lord Mayor’s Cup.

Australia Day Regatta 2013
Peter Campbell


Modern harbour racing keelboats will be racing in three spinnaker and two non-spinnaker divisions, starting from 1315 hours, while a fleet of ocean racing yachts will compete for the prestigious Sydney of Sydney Cup in race from the Harbour to Botany Bay and return.

Heading the ocean racing fleet will be Bob Steel’s TP52 Quest which placed third in IRC Division 1 of the recent Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race while Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Commodore Howard Piggott has entered his Beneteau 40, Flying Cloud.

Returning to Sydney Harbour the yachts will sail the same waters that Captain Phillip RN did when he headed north with his ships from Botany Bay on 26 January, 1777 to land and establish the colonial settlement in Sydney Cove in Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) and thus found what today is the Commonwealth of Australia.

'In view of Australia’s early maritime history, our Regatta is of symbolic significance to the celebration of Australia Day,' Charles Curran AC, President of the 177th Australia Day Regatta, said today.

The 177th Regatta will start at 1100 with the short ocean race to Botany Bay and return, while on Sydney Harbour the Regatta racing will start at 1315 from a line to the east of the Flagship, HMAS Newcastle.

Other Australia Day regattas will be staged during the afternoon on Botany Bay, Brisbane Waters, Lake Macquarie, Drummoyne, Greenwich, the Parramatta River, Manly and Pittwater for catamarans, off-the-beach dinghy classes and keelboats while radio controlled yachts will race on Chipping Norton Lakes.

Quest in action at the Australia Day Regatta


Other Australia Day events on or around Sydney Harbour on Saturday will include the Great Aussie Swim, the famous Ferrython, a floating concert in Farm Cove, the spectacular F/A 18 Hornet fly-over, the Tall Ships Race, a Tiger Moth aerial display and finally, a twilight ceremony in Cockle Bay and the Darling Harbour Australia Day Spectacular.