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Yachts prepare for first Saturday Freshwater Classic


A move to the Saturday of the Australia Day long weekend and a sunny forecast has organisers confident of success in one of the nation’s leading freshwater yacht races next week.

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More than 100 boats and 500 sailors are expected to take to the water in South Australia for the time-honoured Milang-Goolwa Freshwater Classic on January 27.

First contested by two boats in 1966, the Freshwater Classic still holds the record as the largest freshwater yacht race in the Southern Hemisphere when 584 boats competed in 1986.

However the 50km race was abandoned from 2007 to 2011 because there was not enough water in the Lower Lakes as a result of the Millennium drought, which parched much of Australia and saw the River Murray reach record lows.

This year’s race will be the first time the event – traditionally on a Sunday – is staged on a Saturday.

The race begins at the lakeside town of Milang and continues across Lake Alexandrina and down to the river port of Goolwa, near the mouth of the Murray.

Racing is open to many off-the-beach monohull and cat classes as well as trailable yachts and vintage riverboats across 10 divisions.

Since the Freshwater Classic reconvened in 2012, it has included a full week of activities on and off the water. This year’s festivities will kick off on Saturday, January 20, with the Marina Challenge time trial through the narrow channels of the southern lagoons of the Coorong Quays Hindmarsh Island Marina.

Goolwa Regatta Yacht Club Commodore Lyn Roberts said the event was still one of the biggest on the South Australian yachting calendar and a celebration of the Murray, Australia’s longest river.

She said the move to the Saturday to follow the public holiday Friday for Australia Day this year made a lot of sense.

“We decided to take advantage of the fact that people might want to stay back and enjoy themselves after the race rather than heading off straight away,” Commodore Roberts said.

Situated at the mouth of the Murray River, Goolwa is about 80km south of the South Australian capital Adelaide and typically enjoys much milder summers than most other parts of the state courtesy of cool sea breezes from the Southern Ocean.

“Our population expands quite dramatically down here in January and we’ve had really good publicity this year so I’m sure a lot of people will be heading to some of the events we’ve got on,” Commodore Roberts said.

“The Milang-Goolwa Freshwater Classic is an iconic event, held in South Australia’s best recreational water playground.”

Other events during the week include a vintage boat race, radio controlled yacht regatta, after race party and concert, gala expo, an Australia Day breakfast and a “Dash for Cash” on Thursday, January 25.

The Kies Hardware Dash for Cash will provide skippers of yachts with a CBH (Class Based Handicap) equal to or greater than .740 the opportunity to test their boats in racing conditions before the big event.

The format for the event comprises two heats of a windward leeward windward leeward course with the top four yachts going through to the final where they will vie for the $750 winner-takes-all cash prize.

The Saturday main race starts near the Milang jetty from 9am, proceeds across South Australia’s biggest inland waterway Lake Alexandrina to Point Sturt, and downstream past Clayton to the finish in front of the Goolwa Regatta Yacht Club.

Thousands of spectators are expected to watch the race from the shore and from hundreds of powerboats on the water along the route downstream of Milang, around Point Sturt, past the ideal viewing place at Clayton cliffs and on to Goolwa.

“There are some fascinating events throughout the week that everyone can get involved with, and great spectator viewing is available,” Commodore Roberts said.

“Goolwa Regatta Week helps to showcase the Lower Murray lakes, the River Murray, Hindmarsh Island and the Coorong waterways as a significant tourist attraction.”

Division 1-7 entries must be received by midnight on Monday 22 January. Division 8 and 9 entries close at midnight on Wednesday 24 January.

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