The dreaded coronavirus strikes again. The latest victim is the 2021 Australian Wooden Boat Festival, held every two years in Hobart and the largest free event in the state of Tasmania. At least 350 classic yachts and motor craft from around the country are usually on display and the three-day festival in February attracts more than a quarter of a million visitors.
General Manager, Paul Stephanus, has written to regular participants ahead of a formal media announcement. His dismay is obvious. “This has been an incredibly difficult decision to make. Back in June the AWBF team was optimistic about the road ahead. We all understood that there would be challenges, but none of these seemed insurmountable. Since then the tides have shifted, and it appears that Covid-19 will be with us for a long time yet.
“This is Hobart’s best summer festival, and one of the world’s premier wooden boat festivals. It is simply not worth gambling all that away for the sake of one event in the middle of a global pandemic. If we back away gracefully this time, we can ensure that we’ll be there again in 2023.
“In short, we’ve decided to wait out the weather so we can sail again in fairer winds.”
The big question the AWBF cancellation now raises is: what does this mean for the Sydney-Hobart race? If it proceeds on its traditional Boxing Day start, crews will arrive in Tasmania six weeks before the scheduled date of the cancelled Wooden Boat Festival. The chances of them all adhering to social distancing rules are zero.
No doubt the race organisers at the Cruising Yacht Club in Sydney and Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania in Hobart are now pondering their options – as will be the naming-right sponsors, Rolex.
– anarchist David