Setting to a new era of racing regatta

Headshot of Breanna Redhead
Breanna RedheadBusselton Dunsborough Times
Boats sail in the 2021 regatta.
Camera IconBoats sail in the 2021 regatta. Credit: Timothy M Campbell

Busselton residents are being urged to flock to the foreshore for an experience like no other, with the Geographe Bay Race Week set to hit the coast of the Capes next week.

Now in its 22nd year, the regatta is taking the opportunity to bring onlookers up close to the racing, with the starting gun firing from the end of the Busselton Jetty.

Additionally, members of the public can even get among the action themselves, with sign-ups available online for the chance get a ride on a boat during the competition.

In previous years the racing has started further out to sea but this year the event aims to give crowds a more immersive experience.

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Race co-ordinator Nigel Chesterfield-Evans said crowds were in for a visual spectacle.

“It’s going to be completely different this year,” he said.

“We’ve got nearly 80 competitors and the whole time there’ll be 60 boats racing the bay going out as far as Abbey and back as far as the marina.

“It will be spectacular, I can tell you that. Just come and watch and enjoy it.”

In another first, this year’s regatta will also see the implemented use of “MarkSetBots”, a GPS guide that creates self-propelled autonomous marks remotely programmed via an iPhone or iPad.

With participants comprising State, national, international and Olympic competitors, there is sure to be no shortage of expertise on show as they race for the Bill Steele Cup.

One to watch is Busselton young gun Kai Colman. The 20-year-old is a WA specialist in marine and aviation composite construction, currently with the Western Australian Institute of Sport Sailing Squad as an Olympic Pathway athlete.

Already having a series of accolades to his name including F18 catamaran State champion, second place at the 2019 Australian Youth Championships, and third place in the 2019 Australian Nacra 15 Catamaran Championships the youngster will no doubt have his eyes on the prize.

Other notable competitors include a handful of women who will be showing their skills, with boats Bird on the Wire, Sapphire and Seeker all having female skippers.

And while there is no honorary prize for the winners, Mr Chesterfield-Evans said it was the spirit of the week that was the key to the event.

“I like it because (of) the level of competition that comes when the visitors are here,” he said.

“Us locals, we sail together every week but when we’re up against the Perth guys ... I wouldn’t call it friendly competition.

“Nobody races for money, it’s all just for the love (of) it, it’s fantastic.”

This year, the regatta is also welcoming a new sponsor, Greenskin Wines.

Founded by former Busselton locals, Greenskin Wines hopes to combine the love of sailing and wine with convenient recyclable wine pouches that are perfect for taking on the water.

Along with the ongoing support from local favourite Shelter Brewing Co, Greenskin Wines founder Kim McKee said it was a “no-brainer” to sponsor the event.

“We’ve been involved in the regatta before, so when Nigel approached us we said ‘yes we’d love to be involved’ as it’s the perfect audience for us,” she said.

“We just love it, its such a good event, the waters are just beautiful.”

She said there was a real sense of camaraderie about the event and a family-friendly vibe.

Races will start at 1pm daily, with additional 9am races on Tuesday and Friday. Crowds are invited to get there from 12.45pm to watch pre-race signals beginning at 12.55pm.

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