2014 Melbourne to Port Fairy Race Summary
This year's Melbourne to Port Fairy saw a modest fleet of eight dedicated Victorian yachts, Yoko, Blue Chip and Alien from Royal Yacht Club of Victoria, Twitch and Hartbreaker from Royal Brighton, Seduction from Mornington Yacht Club, Merlion from Hobson's Bay Yacht Club and Running Wild from Port Fairy Yacht Club assembled in Queenscliff in the early hours of Good Friday morning.
Conditions on Thursday afternoon and evening were very pleasant for the trip down the bay, with several yachts choosing to make the most of the mild weather and head down during the afternoon, and enjoy a quiet meal and a rest in Queencliff, ahead of the 0135 Sign On Sked with Charleville Radio.
With confirmation from Lonsdale VTS that there was only one outbound ship scheduled to exit the heads at 0330, and three inbound ships scheduled for 0345, 0355 and 0405, the race director agreed to start the race at the scheduled time of 0300, and all yachts in the fleet were advised of the shipping traffic and instructed to keep to the west of the main leads, and stay well out of the way of ships.
The breeze eased from 21 knots at 0200 to around 14 knots at race start, however, with the north westerly wind direction, the fleet had good breeze to push them out through the rip without too much concern.
Unfortunately, not all yachts adhered to the instruction of keeping to the west of the main channel and staying out of the way of shipping traffic, and as a result the master of the outbound ship made a complaint to Lonsdale VTS which resulted in a call to the deputy race director to make a further announcement to the fleet to keep to the west of the main leads, and stay out of the way of the shipping traffic.
The fleet was finally clear of the heads by 0400, and making the most of the following breeze, ahead of the the cold front that was expected to meet the fleet by mid morning, and by the time daylight came, the fleet was in 20 knots.
Robin Hewitt, Skipper of Yoko, advised that the front met the fleet just before 0900, and Yoko immediately furled away the headsail and reefed down to the third reef, and a small staysail, for the long beat down to Cape Otway.
The first casualty of the race was Hartbreaker, which experienced damage to her mainsail, and by mid-morning, our race tracker audience and the race management team was watching them head back towards the heads, without confirmation of their retirement.
By 1230, as the fleet was preparing for the next official radio sked with Charleville Radio, the race management team had confirmation of all three retirements, including Alien who had decided to make for Queenscliff and the train to Port Fairy instead, and Merlion who decided to find a tree in Apollo Bay to assista a seasick crew member.
The rest of the fleet pushed on late into the afternoon, and after many tacks into the south westerly breeze and unfavourable tides, the last yacht, Seduction, rounded Cape Otway just after 1700, giving them an hour or so slightly off the breeze, to get settled down before the darkness of night two settled in around the fleet, and with less than 60 nautical miles to go, the fleet was making good time back on the rhumb line, with the front runners expected to cross the finish line just before midnight.
As reported in our previous article, the afternoon was not completely without incident, with Hartbreaker reporting that they were taking water through the rudder stock, within 10 nautical miles of Port Phillip Heads, and with the assistance of the ORCV Incident Management Team, they were able to arrange travel lift assistance in Queenscliff Harbour.
As the evening went on, and the breeze eased back to around 15 - 20 knots, the race became a drag race to the finish, and it was obvious that the yachts that had minimised their distance sailed to Cape Otway, were going to capitalise in this last phase of the race, and with Twitch being out in front with Line Honours in their sights, Handicap honours were also looking good for a few hours.
As the fleet closed in on the Port Fairy finish line, it was obvious that Seduction, Blue Chip and Yoko were also going to feature in the handicap placings.
Running Wild guarded the rear of the fleet and crossed the finish line at 0307, and the entire fleet was safely in the Moyne River before 0400, thanks to the assistance of the Port Fairy Yacht Club rescue boat, in time to get a few hours of well earned rest before daylight.
After a hearty cooked breakfast and a few delayed cleansing ales courtesy of our hosts at the Port Fairy Yacht Club, all crews gathered for the presentation, and the official functions were over for another year, leaving all weary sailors to rest some more and enjoy the Port Fairy hospitality, before returning to Melbourne over the remainder of the Easter long weekend.
The ORCV would like to formally thank all participants and volunteers for making this year's Melbourne to Port Fairy Race another successful event, and we look forward to the return of this event in 2015.
Our next, and final Ocean Race of the season, is the Category 3+ Melbourne to Apollo Bay Race on Saturday 17 May, 2014.