Skandia Geelong Week starts for most sailors on Thursday when racing commences in Williamstown and some of the smaller boats start sailing here on Friday.
Then suddenly on Saturday the fleet of bigger boats will sail to the finish line in Corio Bay after the passage race from Williamstown and so commences the annual Australia Day long weekend extravaganza of sailing and shore-side activities, with lots of entertainment from the aerial acrobatics of the Roulettes to the fire-works and a big selection of live acts.
While a lot of crews are coming from interstate, having sailed from Tasmania, South Australia or New South Wales even more have towed their smaller 'trailerables', whether super fast sports boats or cruisers unto Geelong. That for many is a long journey.
However for one lucky crew of sailors, the journey to Skandia Geelong Week started six months ago and 12,000 miles away.
As part of the Skandia Geelong Week launch celebration in Cowes U.K in Britain in August last year, Skandia asked visiting flag-officers from Royal Geelong Yacht Club and Event Coordinator Doug Jarvis to select one lucky crew racing there who would win an all expenses trip to Skandia Geelong Week.
The criteria for selection - simply pick a crew that impressed the most.
The lucky crew was from 'Charlie Fish' skippered by Iain MAY. Jarvis explains the reason behind the selection. "We need to be ever aware of how we promote this great sport. It is important to be a good sailor on and off the water. In this case we looked for a crew who performed well in both arenas."
"Iain's crew were approached without introduction in the beer tent and with no hesitation they engaged in conversation, answered our silly questions, and in no time at all they invited complete strangers to inspect their moored boat."
"Their reward for being friendly and genuine promoters of sailing is this trip to Geelong courtesy of Skandia.
"Our Skandia Set Sail sponsorship program is all about providing opportunities in the sport. Being able to take a crew from Cowes to race in Geelong is a perfect example of Skandia's commitment to Set Sail. When we first told Iain MAY that he and his crew had been selected he wouldn't believe us. Seeing the excitement on the faces of his crew when we made the announcement that they were going to Geelong was one of the highlights of Skandia Cowes Week."
At Skandia Cowes Week the Charlie Fish's crew of five; Iain MAY, Gary KIBBLE, Ian MARTIN, Alistair HALL, Mark ASQUITH, and Harvey HILARY. race on a super fast little One Design sports boat, with considerable success. At Skandia Cowes Week 2002 they won their tightly contested division and last year they were fourth.
So Charlie Fish are certainly flying fish.
Since arriving on the weekend the team have been getting used to the larger Thompson 870 sports boat they will be sailing in the full Scotchman's Hill series.
Needing a crew of seven the guys have been joined by a sailing mate Ian JOHNSON and will shortly have a local addeded to the crew. They have been sailing every day on Corio Bay. Coming from the depths of England's winter, you'd expect to see red faces, peeling noses and hot pink ears, but one of the sponsors involved is Sail 4 Cancer and with plenty of 30+ sunscreen and sailing hats, they are looking healthy and un-burnt.
"We are just having a great time here; it's a fabulous place to sail. The locals have been very friendly."
The Charlie Fish crew have been sailing hard, but they've been partying hard too. "We had a big weekend. The nightlife in Geelong is great. Yes it is true we got to bed after the sun came up on Monday morning. So there was a mixture of snoozing and sailing that day, but today we back in full on training.
"It certainly paid dividends talking to the Aussies that night back in Cowes. It is so amazing to actually be here. We are very much looking forward to this weeks racing and we thank Skandia and Royal Geelong Yacht Club for the opportunity", a delighted May said.
Skandia's Sponsorship Manager, Tim SEWELL was all smiles yesterday seeing the Charlie Fish crew out practicing on their chartered sports boat in the strong mid-morning breezes.
"One of the things I'm now really looking forward to this weekend is running competitions and informing winners they are going to race at Skandia Cowes Week next August.
"We can guarantee the winner Australian crews they will have a great time, that is for sure, but we won't be able to guarantee them weather like this!
So keep an eye out for the Union Jack out on the racecourse!