Well we’ve decided to do the 50th Marlay Point Overnight Race! Well over 200 entries this year, so instead of a single start there will be three start sequences separated by 10 mins – what could possible go wrong for a night time start with that many boats?
Unlike previous years, there has been a last minute rush to get everything ready – not very organised at all. The trailer has had some welding done – primarily to put on new galvanised mudguards and brackets; then the annual trailer check of bearings and brakes; new tyres for the trailer, and an outboard service. Of course these four tasks took place at four different places over the course of this week. Tonight (Wed 8th Mar) has seen the last minute pack of the boat to make sure that we have everything required for Cat 5N racing. This has generated an urgent list of important things to buy tomorrow – as I’ve just discovered that all the flares are out of date!
The crew is keen and the plan this year is the same as last – the Navigator and myself are taking Friday off work and will leave very early for the 460km drive down, while Bowman and Trimmer will drive down late that evening after work.
The Navigator has set us four tall goals this year, so we will see how we go:
- Have fun and be safe
- Finish better than 32nd on handicap
- Be in the top 1/3 of Noelex 25 in the race
- Finish better than 43rd on line honours in class
Winds for Saturday evening show 7 knots ESE for the start (all on the nose for the run across Lake Wellington), then shifting left from 2300 to 3 knots NW, 0200 5 knots NNW, 0500 6 knots NNW, 0800 7 knots NNW before a southerly change building in the early afternoon. A slow race for sure!
DAY 1 – FRI 9 MAR
The Navigator and I left Canberra spot on 0600 for the trip to Paynesville. I had some work done on the trailer, and had replaced the tyres, so there were a couple of stops on the way south to check wheels nuts and the like, and for breakfast at the Truck Stop at Polo Flats. We pushed on and arrived in good time at Cann River, 280 km south of Canberra, and about 45 km into Victoria.
We had a good run out of Cann River towards to the coast, until we hit a Kangaroo! Large roo, dead and in the centre of the road, on a blind curve. We didn’t have a chance to pull up and there was no room to go around it so over it we went! I was going to post the photo of the trailer, however the Admiral has convinced me not to – needless to say the trailer and the bottom of the boat looked like the floor of a slaughter house, and the Navigator kept repeating “I never realised how much grass a kangaroo eats!” for the rest of the drive!
We normally drive via Bruthen however the weather was good and the traffic light so we went via Lakes Entrance, stopping at the lookout to check out the sea entrance to the lakes systems.
We arrived at Paynesville around lunchtime and quickly rigged and launched the boat, then we motored around to Captains Cove Apartments , tied the boat up at our cottage and checked in. We caught up with some other Canberra sailors for a chat and then headed off to do jobs and last minute provisioning. The first task was to take the car and the trailer to the nearest car wash to try to wash off what was left of Skippy before it baked on in the sun! .
We had the traditional take away pizza dinner and watched a movie while we waited for the Bowman and the Trimmer to arrive (they didn’t leave Canberra until after work that evening).
I was not overly happy with the Navigators choice of movie as I was sure that we were tempting fate – or that it would give me nightmares!
DAY 2 – SAT 10 MAR
Getting to the Start
After an early morning start we headed off to the The Fig Cafe for breakfast then back to the apartment, last minute pack of the boat and then headed off for Lake Wellington Yacht Club, 56 km / 30 nm to the west. No wind at all, with a little bit of morning fog, so we ended motoring for the next six hours – very happy to have “Ray” the tiller pilot, doing the steering for us!
We finally arrived at Lake Wellington Yacht Club, with the plan of dropping me off at the jetty to sign on, while the crew circled in the boat and came back 20 min later to collect me. That plan lasted until we ran aground and realised how shallow the western end of the lake was. Plan B saw us anchor outside the club, and hitch a lift in with the Taxi Tender service provided by the Race Committee. Trimmer and I headed in, and while I signed on and did the race declaration, the Trimmer picked up four hot lamb rolls and we headed back to the yacht.
We then motored up the Avon River, about 2 ½ nautical miles away, and anchored the boat in the quiet of the river while we waited for the race start. Bowman, Navigator and Skipper were able to catch a few hours sleep while the Trimmer kept watch.
The Navigator had put together a great race plan, and had been watching the weather forecasts from multiple sources over the preceding week. His timings were almost spot on. There was a lot of discussion about how we would deal with the first leg from the start line to the entrance of the McLennan Straits – start up north, head east and then south to the entrance was the broad plan.
With over 200 competitors this year there were three starts – sports boats and multihulls at 1945 hrs; trailerable yachts with a rating of 0.705 or more (us at 0.725) at 1955 hrs, and then the slower boats at 2005 hrs. Of course I never get stressed pre – start! The crew did a great job in helping with collision avoidance and keeping track of where we were in the start sequence and in relation to the start boats.
In the end we started ⅓ of the way down from the northern mark and were able to make good time across Lake Wellington, averaging about 4 knots in some very light winds, and getting to the first mark just prior to the predicted time.
We had to put one tack in and then benefited from a 30 degree lift that took us straight to the mark, just in time for the wind to die as we entered the Straits. The next 5 ½ hours do not bear thinking about – we drifted through the Straits towards Hollands Landing doing less than a knot and trying not to bounce off the sides of the river. The current was the dominant force and some boats dropped their main and jib to reduce windage as they drifted out of the river. This is something that we will consider if the conditions are the same next year. One thing that we will not repeat is the 360 degree “pirouette” that we did, at night, without steerage, as we drifted between other yachts. It was disappointing to watch some of the other boats “sculling” their way through the river.
DAY 3 – SUN 11 MAR
Dawn saw us in the middle of Lake Victoria, becalmed, but looking at a great sunrise.
We were treated to a breakfast of toasted ham & cheese sandwiches, coffee and jelly beans. I may well have overdone the Miltons Solution when cleaning out the water bladder after the Whitsunday’s trip – the crew certainly didn’t agree with my definition of “potable” water!
As the morning progressed we sailed from one catspaw of wind to another, trying to keep the boat moving. What was frustrating was seeing the wind swing back to the west, and watching the boats that were well behind us, use it to chase us down.
We were able to get to the “first” finish, passing the finish line at 1038 hrs with a large group of Noelex 25’s. Some great photos as we went through the line, with some confusion by some competitors if there was a shorten course or if we were still required to do the lap around Raymond Island.
The wind started to pick up and we were able to carry the spinnaker through McMillan Straits and then shy around the northern side of the Raymond Island. We were in close company with a number of boats on the same handicap as ourselves – Seaway 25’s, Sonata’s, Castle 650’s, and a good half dozen Noelex 25’s.
Turning around the eastern side of Raymond Island the wind picked up to 18 knots and we had to work hard to hold our position relative to others as we were overpowered with the genoa up (note to self: trim sails as conditions change, sail draught, genoa car position, halyard tension!). It turned out to be real drag race to the finish line with a dozen or so boats all finishing within a minute of each other.
Once through the finish line for the second time (at 13:00:21 hrs) we dropped the sails and motored back to Captains Cove Apartments. While the Navigator and Bowman tied up and tidied up the boat, the Trimmer and I drove down to the Gippsland Lakes Yacht Club to submit our completed race documentation.
With an elapsed race time of 17 hrs 5 min 21 sec we were 66th/98 boats on line honours and once Class Based Handicaps (boat ratings) were taken into account ranked 39th/98. Again the scores were very tight – there was only 2 minutes separating 20 placings – amazing when you consider that this is after 17 hours of racing.
Fairly exhausted we showered, packed the boat back onto the trailer and then headed out for a seafood dinner at a new restaurant in Paynesville that the apartment managers recommended (Sardine). Great food – although its the only time I have seen deep grief broccoli! A few vino’s, tall tales and then bed!
DAY 4 – MON 12 MAR
Another early start, the Trimmer and Bowman headed off in the fast car, while the Navigator and myself headed back at a more leisurely pace, via Bruthen for breakfast, and then to Canberra. We back at Canberra YC mid afternoon, locked the boat away in the yard and ended our third Marlay Point Overnight Race on Quo Vadis.
We sailed a much better race this year than the two previous years – the Navigator has calculated that we improved 25% compared to 2016 and 2017. In 2017 56 minutes covered the Noelex fleet, in 2018 1 hr 43 minutes covered the 26 boats. In 2017 we were 52 minutes behind the fastest Noelex 25, this year 29 minutes. On a race like this, it is the boat that makes the least mistakes, that wins. We can certainly find another 5 – 10 minutes over 17 hours!
A great time, and my thanks to the crew who made it all possible and put so much in during the 2017/18 racing season.