Monday, 25 March 2019

Race Report - Keeley Marine Supplies Marlay Point Overnight Race 2019


After such a huge race in the 50th MPONR in 2018, expectations were high for the 2019 Keeley Marine Supplies Marlay Point Overnight Race. With new sponsors, a new team guiding the race planning, onshore activities and supports, the 130 race entrants were looking forward to another great race.

Three Explorers headed down to Lake Wellington to race. Emily (Frank Strickland with ace crew Michael Baker – an Explorer sailor from way back), Swallow (Sue and Trevor Burke) and Captain Phasma (Ric Lamont and Guy Hansson).

Ric Lamont on Captain Phasma pre-start

The detailed forecast had us expecting a light to moderate easterly to turn north and light a few hours into the race and then completely die at 9am. It was imperative we finish before the wind completely died as no-one wanted to be bobbing around getting hot.

A spectacular sunset, made even more dramatic from the smoke of the nearby bushfires, heralded the start sequence. At the white-flare, we set off in one large fleet. Officially the slowest class in the fleet, the first 10-15 minutes were spent trying to find clean air as the larger boats powered over the top of the Explorers, who were already spread out across the line.
Smoky sunset heralds the start of MPONR 2019

Captain Phasma, going slowly on starboard tack, watched as Emily sailed through her lee and climbed above. After realizing a spinnaker sheet was dragging behind, they picked up pace again and stayed with the pack.  By 11pm, with the wind now down to 4 knots, the tail of the fleet was nearing the entrance to the dreaded McLennan’s Strait. In the straights the tall boats can pick up breeze at the top of their sails, but the little boats have to rely on the current to push them through, the odd puff and the apparent wind created by being pushed by the current. Average speed through the straights was 1.8knots and before long we were greeted with 3 knots coming out of the North West at Hollands Landing.  

With the spinnaker set, it seemed to take forever to reach Storm Point, where the fleet took a more northerly course to head up Lake Victoria. At this point, most boats pointed straight for the next mark – sailing 500m from the lee of the northerly shore, whilst others ventured further south to seek clearer air.

In the pre-dawn light, the Explorers spotted each other, again amazingly, within 100 metres of one other after 9 hours of sailing. Captain Phasma led Swallow around Point Turner by 10 boat lengths, which was quickly erased and the position changed, followed by Emily another 10 boat lengths behind. A couple of supposedly faster boats were in the mix causing all kinds of wind shadows, and with the finish line in sight, a highly tactical sprint to the finish was underway.

Sailing high and fast, with her tri-radial genoa filling beautifully, Emily sailed right past the other two Explorers as she reached Montague Point, 300 metres from the finish line. And then…..

Swallow drifting in the final stage of the race
The wind stopped. Really stopped. As in, not a breath of air.

This wasn’t right! It wasn’t supposed to die off until 9am! And now we were stuck. Swallow smartly turned down an offer of a spare paddle from Captain Phasma and the Explorers watched any chance of taking out the handicap places slowly slip away.

A large crowd of early finishers on the docks at GLYC were urging us on, or egging us on, not sure which. Emily picked up a sniff of breeze and started to make ground. Great drifting sailing techniques from Frank and Michael kept their boat speed up and they finished at 8:30am. Captain Phasma followed 7 minutes later (a gap of only 50 metres) and Swallow a further 7 minutes behind.

Final placings on handicap for Group A, where there were 53 starters:
-       Emily 11th
-       Captain Phasma 13th
-       Swallow 17th

If only the breeze had stayed in. At least there’s always next year!

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