South of Perth Yacht Club has a proud tradition in ocean racing. Prior to the establishment of oceanfront marinas at Fremantle and Hillarys, South of Perth was one of the powerhouse clubs on the ocean, with boats like Castille, Golden Eagle, Eun-na-Mara and many others carving out the Club’s legacy. Names like Jim Granger, Past Commodore Ed Rodoreda and Norm Cocks, all of them South of Perth members before their passing, are now legends in the sport of sailing offshore.
Today the Geraldton Ocean Classic remains the outstanding annual challenge on the Western Australian ocean racing calendar. It remains the only annual Category 2 race in the State and celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2018. Its regular time slot at the end of October each season almost guarantees a thrilling sleigh ride from Fremantle to Geraldton, followed a week later by an uncompromising upwind slog back to Fremantle.
The Geraldton Classic is a “must do” for aspiring Sydney to Hobart hopefuls and is accepted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia as an official qualifier for the great race, Sydney to Hobart.
Over the years, with the assistance of the Geraldton Yacht Club, the “Geraldton” has evolved into a full-scale regatta. The races north and southbound are added to scores from the Lobster Pot Regatta run in Geraldton to make up a comprehensive series.
In addition to the Geraldton Ocean Race, the Club normally runs two additional events – a short Category 4 ocean race which starts and ends at Fremantle, and the annual “Billy Run”, an escorted race on Cockburn Sound which has its origins in an overnighter to Rottnest Island. This event is run under the same safety standards as the Club’s river events and is a golden opportunity to enjoy some safe sailing on the ocean.
Most of ocean racing’s current competing yachts are now based at Fremantle – an obvious development to avoid the time-consuming journey downriver and the associated problems of lowering and raising masts to negotiate the bridges, but Club connections remain strong, with members like the Walsh family, Mike Giles and Chris Hind all representing South of Perth even though their yachts reside at Fremantle.