The great thing about preparing for Marlay is that it forces you to complete all those annual safety checks that you wouldn’t otherwise do! Fire extinguishers and flares in date, new battery’s in the torches, hand held radio, spare nav lights, inflatable life jackets sent away for their annual service/inspection, and making sure that the trailer is sorted out for the 940 km round trip from Canberra to Gippsland Lakes. We ended up rewiring and replacing the electric trailer brakes as well (expensive but essential maintenance).
One of the fiddlier jobs this year was to wire an additional LED to to the mast head, underneath the windex, so that we could see the wind vane at night without turning the anchor light while we were sailing. It ended up being well worth the time and effort!
Due to varying work commitments we ended up leaving on the Friday (we usually leave on a Thursday), and travelling down to Paynesville in two cars – Sean and Duncan leaving early with the boat, while Brendan and Bill departed Canberra after work. We also made the decision to book the Captains Cove Apartments which gave us the ability to securely store the car and trailer, plus a great cottage with its own jetty.
DAY 1 – FRI 10 MAR 2017
Sean and I derigged the boat at Canberra YC during the week and brought it back home to be destowed and the packed with only the essentials for the race. An early morning start saw us take the usual route to Paynesville and get in mid afternoon.
A quick rig and launch of the boat at the King Street boat ramp, then off to drop the boat around to the cottage, store the trailer and then to the supermarket for provisions! Pizza and beer for dinner while we waited for the others to get in about 10pm. A late night strategy and planning session had us debating what time to leave in the morning for the 35 nautical mile trip from Paynesville to the start line at Marlay Point.
DAY 2 – SAT 11 MAR 2017
Blue skies, and no wind greeted us on Saturday morning. After a quick breakfast and last minute preparations we left Captains Cove at 8:30 am and motored through the canals and out to Paynesville. We didn’t make it past Paynesville (¾ of nm) before we stopped for 2nd breakfast of coffee and cake!
Previously we have used the Friday to get to the half way point of Loch Sport and spend the night there however I reckon its a far nicer option, weather permitting, to spend the night in Paynesville! Better coffee!
The next five hours saw us motor west, into nil or very light winds, towards Marlay Point – the engine ran like a dream so I now have no excuse to get a new lighter one! While we motored our navigator (Sean) was busy taking bearings, back bearings, soundings and preparing time/distance charts/heading notes for the night ahead.
We finally arrived at the Lake Wellington Yacht, Marlay Point where I anchored in too deep water before wading (swimming) ashore to do the race registration and sign on. The smarter crew waited for a passing RIB and got a lift to shore! After final race prep, and some steak sandwiches courtesy of the local primary school fundraising drive, we tried to get a few hours sleep prior to the start of the race.
At 5:45 pm we listened to the race briefing and then headed out at about 6:45 pm to get ourselves sorted out for the start. The race was started by flare at last light at 7:45 pm with an easterly of 9-13 knots. We had a much better start than last year, crossing the line two minutes after the start – a 13 minute improvement on 2016! The crossing of Lake Wellington went well, with less tacks and than usual. Of course the easterly didn’t hold and a quick sail change saw the spinnaker launched in response to a huge wind shift! We entered McLennan’s Strait 23 minutes ahead of planning, at 10:22 pm and avoided the usual issues dodging other boats and the sand bars existing Lake Wellington – a number of yachts “touched bottom”. The Straits were challenging as usual with us flying a shy spinnaker for much of the time – although in hindsight we may have been better running the genoa.
DAY 3 – SUN 12 MAR 2017
We exited the Straits at 2:08 am and then had a great run across Lake Victoria. We almost had a catastrophe at around 5:00 am when we missed, by less than a metre, an anchored and unlit catamaran in the centre of the channel between Duck Arm and Paynesville. A very close call – made worse when we realised that someone was on board but hadn’t bothered to put up an anchor light. Terrible thinking about what may have happened had we hit them at 6 knots on a dark cloudy night. Also a lesson for us on fatigue management and the need to keep a lookout.
We passed through the finish line, in the channel between the Gippsland Lakes Yacht Club and Raymond Island, for the first time at 05:45 am, before commencing the 10 nm loop back around Raymond Island. Quo Vadis was 7th out of the 10 Noelex 25’s to the 1st finish. We had a great run up McMillan Strait (between Paynesville and Raymond Island), before running aground doing 5 knots and the end of the Strait just before entering Lake King – which cost us about 3 – 5 minutes as we raised keel and rudder and sailed off the mud bank. No damage thankfully – but not quick! We then took a conservative course around Raymond Island, and ran down a number of yachts on the eastern and souther eastern side of the island.
We had an exciting race to the finish, trading places with several yachts (especially the yellow Farr 7500), to finish at 8:52 am with an elapsed time of 13 hours 7 minutes and 7 seconds. This ranked us 9 of 10 Noelex 25’s, with only +/- 2 minutes separating most of these boats. Once Class Based Handicaps were applied we rated 31/49 in our Division, a 16 place improvement on our 2016 results.
Once through the finish we had the luxury of sailing past the boat ramp where the rest of the fleet retrieved their boats, onto to our own cottage and jetty. The crew de-stowed the boat while I quickly raced back to Yacht Club and handed in our completed log forms – showing GPS time and competitors that were adjacent to us as we passed each checkpoint and mark. After a quick breakfast we had a “little lie down” to catch up on sleep before heading out for lunch and a relaxed day. We adjusted the left rear bearing on the trailer, which had run a bit hot on the way down, and then retrieved that evening and brought the boat and trailer back to the accommodation.
DAY 4 – MON 13 MAR 2017
After a restful nights sleep, we packed up and said goodbye to Captains Cove and Paynesville and headed back to Canberra.
One of the crew commented that we “each had a moment throughout the night!” – I would agree – fatigue management and trying to maintain racing concentration for 13 plus hours of night racing, after a day on the water getting to the start is challenging. But the Marlay Point Overnight Race is meant to be a challenge!
This year saw 115 entries, 6 Did Not Start, 4 Did Not Finish and 1 Disqualification (not handing in the log post race). Of the 104 finishers, seven of the boats were from Canberra: Pathfinder (Peter Taylor, Adams 21), Razzle Dazzle (Damian Hennessy, Seaway 25), Redback (Ian Brokenshire, Castle 650), More Mischief (Ian Hawke, Castle 650), Once Bitten (Rod Charles, Spider 22), Quo Vadis (Duncan Hayward, Noelex 25), Rum Cay (David Smith, Clubman 8). Peter Taylor on his Adams 21 again took out first place in Division C. The Club Trophy was also won by the Canberra Yacht Club team, of Peter Taylor, Ian Brokenshire and Ian Hawke.
So what would we do differently? Not much! A bit faster on the start, genoa rather than a shy kite, not running aground, and a bit more aggressive around Raymond Island. Actively trimming the sails, lighter weight spinnaker sheets to allow the sail to fill, boat trim – will all add a bit. Looking back we can can definitely find 10 minutes in the race which would move us up into the top ⅓ of the fleet. We are certainly improving!
So guys please keep the March long weekend free, mark it in your diaries and come down to the Gippsland Lakes for the 50th running of the Marlay Point Overnight Race on Saturday 10th March 2018. With a new spinnaker, smooth bottom, faired keel and rudder, wind instrument and a chart plotter (I hope!), we are running out of excuses! And at the end of it all – it’s a great weekend!
P.S. – Crew, if your reading this, I’ve already booked a Captains Cove apartment for next year!