Fresh look

The Royal Geelong Yacht Club, home of the iconic Festival of Sails, will soon have a new look thanks to a multi-million dollar re-development.

Photography by Salty Dingo

26 November 2018


Following the 2019 Festival of Sails regatta, held in Geelong over the Australia Day long weekend, the focus will shift to the re-development with construction of the first stage of a masterplan due to start in mid-2019.

The Geelong Waterfront Safe Harbour Precinct Project will see the Royal Geelong Yacht Club (RGYC) site redeveloped, including a brand new shared facility for the Victorian Sailing School and the Royal Geelong Yacht Club Off the Beach sailors. It will also include a wave attenuator to protect local and visiting boats in the marina and 29 additional floating berths.

The re-development would “transform the waterfront and the functionality of the club,” RGYC Commodore John Kint said. “The visitor’s experience will be unbelievable.”

The project is designed to increase use of the waterfront for public recreation, stimulate economic growth by attracting new events and tourists, increase use of the waterfront for public recreation and community programming and create a safe harbour to improve destination attractiveness for boats users.


So far a total of $19.1 million has been committed to fund the redevelopment, coming from the RGYC, City of Greater Geelong, State Government of Victoria and the Federal Government.

The masterplan is expected to be completed by the end of the year and adopted by the City of Greater Geelong Council in early 2019. Construction of Stage One is expected to be completed by the end of 2019, with the total project taking a couple of years.

Visitors to the 2020 Festival of Sails can expect a remarkably different RGYC and Festival of Sails experience.

“The safe harbour components should be in place by then and the Victorian Sailing School and the Off The Beach complex should be completed. All going to plan, the 2020 Festival of Sails may see a very different layout,” said Mr Kint.

“From a sailing point of view it provides us, first and foremost, with a safe harbour for all visiting boats and it will have a bigger capacity so we will be able to attract and accommodate more people. The experience will be unique and it will change the focus of how the Festival of Sails will be run.”

Mr Kint said the RGYC was currently working through the consultation process for the design for the project, which was receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback.

“We have had great support from the City of Greater Geelong and the State Government of Victoria who have been really strong leaders and drivers of the project, and recently the Federal Government who have also supported us,” Mr Kint said.

The timing of the re-development couldn’t be better for Geelong with the city hosting four Olympic Class World Sailing Championships, following the 2020 Festival of Sails. Almost 800 international and local competitors will take to the waters of Corio Bay.

This includes the 49er (men), 49erFX (women) and Nacra World Championships (February 8 to 15, 2020), as well as the Laser Masters World Championship (March 19 to 28, 2020).

With the Tokyo Olympics taking place in July 2020, it is anticipated international teams will stay on and train in Geelong before continuing on to Japan.

Meanwhile, with only 61 days to go until the 2019 Festival of Sails, the countdown is well and truly on for the largest keelboat regatta in the southern hemisphere.

Thousands of participants and visitors from around the country – as well as crews from overseas – are expected to flock to Geelong from January 26 to 28, 2019, to celebrate Australia’s oldest sporting event and the country’s biggest celebration of sailing.


The 2019 regatta marks the 176th year of the Festival of Sails.

In 2018, a huge fleet of 300 yachts – more starters than the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race -charged from the northern end of Port Phillip Bay to the waters of Corio Bay for the 32 nautical mile Passage Race, on the first day of the regatta.

Festival of Sails Chairman, Stuart Dickson said with 2019 entry numbers currently up on the number of entries at the same time last year, the RGYC was on track for another exciting event.

Highly competitive and diverse, the regatta caters to all levels of sailing from high performance racing machines to family cruisers and junior boats with two people.

“It’s an iconic event, with really good racing on the beautiful flat waters of Corio Bay, with good winds, which is a real attraction for yachties,” he said.

“From the general public point of view the whole waterfront will be full of activities from one end to the other, catering for people of all ages.”

Waterfront activities will include Come and Try sailing, stand up paddle boarding and virtual reality sailing.

Festival goers will also be entertained along the waterfront with 30 different artists performing live across two stages, over three days.

Headline acts are Aussie rock legend Russell Morris, 2013 X Factor runner-up Taylor Henderson and formidable sister act Vika & Linda.

In January 2019, the Festival of Sails will join forces with the prestigious Australian Yachting Championships, hosted by Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron in St Kilda, to create a week-long celebration of summer sailing in Victoria.

A lay-day on the Friday, January 25 provides the perfect opportunity for sailors to compete in both events.

“Hopefully we will also see some sailors who have just completed the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, stop over on their way home and compete in both of these premier regattas,” Mr Dickson said.

The RGYC will also host three Australian Championships as part of the Festival of Sails action – the VX One Class Australian Championships, Australian Sports Boat Championship and the J111 Australian Championship.

  • Advertisement

  • Advertisement

  • Advertisement