With entries now closed, Royal Geelong Yacht Club CEO Rod DRISCOLL has confirmed that this year's Skandia Geelong Week fleet will be the largest ever in the 160-year history of the event and the largest ever keelboat fleet in Australia.
Up early yesterday walking along the docks, Driscoll was upbeat. "Last night when entries closed we tallied the figures and it's a record. Last year we had 360 boats and this year its 432!
Now it's a great morning and looking at all the Skandia Geelong Week signage and the busy pre-event activity, there certainly is a sense of great anticipation about this event and for the future."
On Melbourne's Port Phillip Bay at Williamstown, the massive fleet will be waiting at 9.30am Saturday for Victorian Premier Steve BRACKS to fire the starting cannon from the Tall Ship Young Endeavour, indicating the start of the passage race to Geelong, a feature of Skandia Geelong Week.
It will be a breathtaking scene, with three tall ships and a large spectator fleet watching the start of an Australia Day long weekend sailing spectacular.
The 2003 Sydney to Hobart line honours winner Skandia is expected to lead the flotilla away from the start line and she should be the first monohull yacht to reach Geelong. Conditions will determine the race duration and if the existing record will be broken. The mono hull record for the 34 nm course stands at 2hrs 32 mins 13 seconds and is held by Australia Skandia Wild Thing, but as Driscoll comments, "If the multi hull's get even a sniff of northerly they will out run Skandia."
While Skandia Geelong Week has become a great celebration on the Australia Day long weekend with fire-works and aerobatics, the yacht club has the core function of organising the sailing side of the event.
Driscoll continues, "The logistics are considerable. As boats get bigger we are grappling with problems we never dreamed about. Skandia is so big we can't even fit her into the marina.
She will be berthed on the outside wall of the marina and that is sadly too high for spectators to see over. We have had to cut a gap in the outside wall to allow the crew to climb up onto the boat.
The Regatta starts in Melbourne on Thursday and racing for some of the smaller classes start here on Friday. We are all looking forward to seeing Skandia sailing down the shipping channel into Corio Bay mid-Saturday."
While weather forecasts have race organisers breathing a little more easily, with fine conditions expected for the weekend, Driscoll will remain nervous about the weather.
"We will know more on Friday night... it can be very changeable here.
Yesterday was a reminder that even in strong conditions, and there were gusts of 30 knots on the bay, we still have flat water and great sailing conditions."
Bureau of Meteorology forecasts are expecting good conditions for the start of the regatta on Thursday with west to southwesterly winds of 15 to 20 knots tending more southerly.
On Friday fine conditions are expected with southerly winds of 10 to 15 knots locally 20 knots in the afternoon. On Saturday it should again be fine with south to southeasterly winds to 10 knots, reaching 20 knots in the afternoon.