by Bernie Kaaks
The iconic Busselton based Geographe Bay Race Week received a shot in the arm with the announcement that marine insurance giant Club Marine have taken up headline sponsorship of the event, joining existing sponsors Eventscorp and the City of Busselton.
Gary McNally's GP42 Black Betty - unbeatable in Race Week 2013.
Along with the change in sponsorship, the structure of the event has undergone a radical overhaul to make it friendlier for competitors. The feeder race from Fremantle to Busselton, which was previously scheduled a full week prior to the regatta, is timed to be a lead-in event for the regatta itself in 2014, saving boat owners one week’s pen fees. Changes to the rally/cruising program are aimed at adding appeal to non-racing sailors, who make up a significant proportion of total numbers.
The biggest change however, is in Race Week’s social program, which has endured steady criticism from participants objecting to the need to travel from the Port Geographe Marina to the Geographe Bay Yacht Club, located on the other side of Busselton townsite, for all of the social events. Even the provision of free coach travel failed to silence the critics. To eliminate the travel, all 2014 social events are programmed to be held at the Port Geographe Marina. Marina CEO Bob Godridge has built a stage over the water at the tavern, which will be used for the announcement of results and stage shows, a move that will eliminate the need for travel completely.
Geographe Bay Yacht Club will continue to manage on-water activities with assistance from Sea Rescue units at Busselton and Margaret River, together with resources from the YWA offshore race management team and Royal Perth Yacht Club.
'We’ve been punching above our weight for ten years now,' said Regatta Chairman Nigel Chesterfield-Evans, but the demands of running a regatta of this scale, which regularly draws more than 100 boats, has clearly stretched the resources of volunteers at Geographe Bay Yacht Club to breaking point, leading to a suggestion that the regatta should be a biennial event. Organisers confirmed this week that the regatta will continue to be run annually, with greater involvement by the Port Geographe Marina and support from metropolitan yacht clubs.
'We are absolutely committed to ensuring the continuing success of Geographe Bay Race Week,' Bob Godridge promised. 'From 2015 onwards we will play a leading role in the organisation of the regatta, with a guarantee that Geographe Bay Yacht Club will continue to reap a financial benefit.'
Competing yachts from around the State and even interstate will welcome the news that the regatta will continue to be run annually. For many, it has already become the centrepiece of their planning for the summer each year.