Historic 180th all Zen

Zen takes 180th Passage Race line honours, the opener for the 2023 Festival of Sails in Geelong.

Photography by Salty Dingo

30 January 2023


Zen, owned by Gordon Ketelbey, took line honours in Royal Geelong Yacht Club’s 180th Passage Race, finishing the 34 nautical mile course at 1.13.17pm in the time of 3 hours 43 minutes 17 seconds in the opener to Royal Geelong Yacht Club’s annual Festival of Sails, 26 January.

Zen beat Smuggler by close to seven minutes, the NSW TP52s were always going to be the ones to beat over the line.

The Passage Race started in a light 8 to 10 knot breeze at 9.30am off Williamstown. BIA Victoria’s Steve Walker fired the five-minute start cannon, while City of Greater Geelong councillor, Eddy Kontelj, firing the start cannon that sent the 242-strong fleet on its way.

Even under an overcast grey sky, the mass start from two lines was nothing short of spectacular; there is nothing like it for the sheer numbers amassed in one area.


The overcast morning did not matter to the sailors who are used to sailing in all kinds of weather.

An understated Ketelbey, who comes fresh from competing in the 2022 Rolex Sydney Hobart said, “It’s a good feeling taking line honours in this race.”

Armed with his core crew, Zen’s owner said of their start: “We managed to get away off the start line quickly and extended our lead from there.”

Of Smuggler, which beat Zen by one place in Division 1 of the Sydney Hobart, Ketelbey said, “I think we beat them by around five or so minutes, they were behind us the entire race.”

The Sydney yachtsman was also pleased considering his result here of three years ago: “We went shocking in the Passage Race last time, but we did OK in the overall event.”

Conditions, he said, “were a bit up and down, it (the wind) went left, back to the right and left and left again. We didn’t expect that.”

Another happy camper was Principal Race Officer, Denis Thompson, who gave the ‘all clear’ after the start, meaning the fleet got away cleanly.

Paul Buchholz was third over the finish line with Extasea, his Cookson 50. The Festival of Sails Chairman took line honours in the race last year, but the TP52s are a hard act to beat.

Bill Barry-Cotter’s Schumacher 54, Maritimo 54 (Qld) was next, with Michael Spies at the helm. Just 12 seconds behind them was Rob Date’s Carkeek 43, Scarlet Runner (Vic).

Held since 1844, the Festival of Sails traditionally takes place from 26 to 29 January, with the 180th Passage Race kicking off racing.



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