The Pier to Pérignon started in 1989 when the two Humble Founders swam from Sorrento to Portsea, with the wager being a bottle of Dom Pérignon for the winner.
The next year they invited some friends along to swim with them, again the prize was a bottle of Dom Pérignon. The event has since grown to around 800 swimmers and yet still maintains its unique character.
From its origins, the Pier to Pérignon has been about personal achievement, rather than competition. Most swimmers enter the race with the aim of completing the challenging swim, and if they better their time from last year it is seen as a bonus.
The aerial displays were a feature of the event from its inception and have involved over 100 aircraft since the first fly-past in 1990. Of these the display by the RAAF Roulettes over the Sorrento Pier in 1998 was a definite highlight, celebrating the event’s 10th anniversary. In recent years, aerobatic displays have been carried out by Jim Wickham from Tyabb Airport.
The inclusion of a musical performance also began at inception of the event, with bands playing on the Sorrento Pier, then being transferred to a couta boat to play along the swim route, finishing up with a performance on the Portsea Pier. Initially there were jazz bands and buskers from Melbourne, but these days the Frankston RSL Pipes and Drum band performs on the Sorrento Pier at the start.
At the completion of the race there is a carnival like atmosphere, with drink and food stalls, marching bands and occasionally a return flyover of the ancient war-birds.
The male and female winners are presented with the perpetual trophy, and a bottle of Dom Pérignon and the club recognises the achievements of those who have enjoyed this swim for 10 years and 20 years and in recent times those that have completed 30 swims. They are presented with a large framed aerial photograph of the swim route in recognition of their achievement.
The two founders still compete in this race, with their own perpetual trophy to be awarded to the fastest of the pair.
Over 40 swimmers have achieved the 20 plus swims milestone with The Humble Founders reaching the 30+ mark in 2018 and 2019.
The Pier to Pérignon is not just a regular swim, but a whole event experience eagerly anticipated by for the swimmers and their supporters every year.