On August 14th, 2020 we issued a media release announcing that the 2021 Australian Wooden Boat Festival will not be proceeding.
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, of course, but none of these challenges seemed insurmountable. The pandemic appeared to be easing off and Australia was on the brink of opening state borders. Since then the tides have shifted, Victoria has gone into another lockdown, and it appears that Covid-19 will be with us for a long time yet.
Over the past month we have been exploring options to keep our 2021 Festival afloat. We’ve modelled an event heavy with fencing, security, and strict crowd controls. We’ve looked at options for a gathering for boat owners only and not open to the public. We even toyed with the possibility of moving the whole Festival online. But time after time we ran into the same problems. The risk was always too high, the expenses were unmanageable, and the end result was not a Festival that we could be proud of producing. And, in the worst case scenario, if things went truly pear-shaped in the weeks leading up to the event, the whole exercise may have crushed the AWBF entirely.
This is Hobart’s best summer festival, Tasmania’s largest free event, 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.
While we navigate this path, we are exploring options for an alternate initiatives in the Autumn of 2021 – something to keep the wooden boat community connected and to celebrate Tasmania’s unique maritime heritage.
On top of that, planning for the Australian Wooden Boat Festival 2023 is already underway and we look forward to seeing you at Sullivan’s Cove from 10-13 February.
Thank you all for the energy you bring to the Festival. This is a community-driven event and it would simply not exist without the dedication of the wooden boat owners, the support of maritime business, and the passion of the craftspeople, seafarers, builders, and designers who keep our maritime heritage alive. I’d also like to extend a special thank you to the Festival’s 400+ volunteers – the Festival relies on your work and enthusiasm, and I’m looking forward to working with you all in the future.
Keep your heads up, stay positive, stay healthy. We’ll be in touch as plans develop.
– AWBF General Manager