Melbourne to Port Fairy (M2PF)
Off with the Fairies...
The following piece was written John Curnow for The Port Fairy race. At the time, a lot of people commented on how they loved it. Tremendous. If your shore crew are coming this time, then perhaps they might like to read to it. So the dates may all be long gone, but the sentiments are as true as ever....
This is definitely worth going to sea for!
We all like to escape! Being off with the fairies might just be the cure for fiscal meltdowns, searing Summer heat and no bushfire has ever taken to The Paddock known as Bass Strait.
So if you, your boat and crew have previously enjoyed a King Island race and the hospitality there, then come away with the fairies and see how Port Fairy takes care of you. Of course if you're going to miss getting to Grassy this year, then you owe it to yourself to come enjoy the delightfully warm welcome and wide range of meals The Port Fairy Yacht Club are famous for.
Port Fairy Harbour as the outlook for your meal from PFYC
The 135nm Melbourne to Port Fairy (M2PF) race, definitely has to be one of the highlights on the ORCV racing calendar. Port Fairy is a magnificent, historic and picturesque town at the end of Victoria's world-renowned, Great Ocean Road. As a distinct tourist landmark, it has fantastic restaurants, eateries, B&Bs, holiday villas and if you brought your Black Amex with you under your Wets, you can even buy a piece of it - provided you're not into counting the zeros before the decimal point! It stands as the complete antithesis of Torquay at the other end of ‘The Road', with its somewhat gaudy shops and fast-food outlets...
Black Amex territory here.
Make your Tatt's choice.
If Victoria has turned on delightful Autumnal weather, then you're in a for a treat, especially when you get to Port Fairy and you can bask in the sensationally warm, soft sun. If it hasn't, then grunt up and face what's coming. The race usually has two parts. Getting to Cape Otway and then getting to Port Fairy from there. If there has been a blow before you leave, then Bass Strait can be a bit of a washing machine and you'll likely be hard on the wind as you beat down past the Surfcoast's famous Point Lonsdale, Torquay, Anglesea, Lorne and finally Apollo Bay. If you happen to be on record pace, then you'll see the magnificent Otway Glades stretching up from this rugged coast just after breakfast this year and the colours being reflected from this National Park should be completely amazing.
This is as close as you want to see, do not be this close at sea!!
Sometimes it can be beneficial to go right out into Bass Strait before making for the corner. Back in the days when he was driving ships, Adam Manders reminded me of this one race and those who hugged the shore really went nowhere. This is where you have to be really sure of the direction of the current down and up the Surfcoast, the overall wind direction and the likelihood of seabreezes late in the day, as at this time of year, the overall conditions can be light to very soft. Generally, you'll want maximise your speed by positioning yourself the correct distance off the coast to utilise the land breeze or seabreeze. As such, it is a good race for beginners and also immensely tactical, which is why the Navigators earn their keep if they've done their homework. Of course, having written light to soft, I have now blessed the fleet with a Southerly screamer - SORRY!
Cape Otway marks the start of the Shipwreck Coast proper and is also the other side of ‘the eye of the needle'. This was a name given to the gap between Cape Otway and Cape Wickham, 60nm further South on the top of King Island, back in the days when the Europeans were coming in Tall Ships. At night it can be a real drifter around here, so do whatever it takes to keep the boat going in its own apparent breeze. You can make up huge ground or stretch your lead and it is also somewhat deathly and eerily quiet too.
This was definitely not the case that night in 1878, when the then five-year-old, 1693 ton, 263 foot long steel Clipper, the ‘Loch Ard' careened into Mutton Bird Island and sank in just 15 minutes. She had sailed from Gravesend, bound for Melbourne. So just what was with all the names in those days? Gravesend, Cape Grim, Cape of Good Hope, Land's End. Hhhmmmm...
150 foot masts on this gem.
The only survivors from a crew of 36 and 18 passengers were two 18 year olds and a ceramic Peacock you can now see in the Flagstaff Hill Museum in Warrnambool. Eva Carmichael, who with her other five family members were migrating from Ireland to what would go on to become the Commonwealth of Australia and crewmember, Tom Pearce got to land. All three were washed into the now named Loch Ard Gorge in the Port Campbell National Park, where Tom helped Eva ashore. Only four bodies were recovered and these graves are in the Loch Ard Cemetery at the top of the gorge. For the record, after a time recovering, both got back on the horse. Cool. Eva returned to Ireland (remember no kerosene canaries in those days) and Tom went on to become a Ship's Master in his own right!
Two people and a ceramic peacock are all that made it in here.
Back to today - apart from being amazingly pretty along here (just look at the pics!!!), it may well represent a chance to crack the sheets or if you're truly blessed fly a shy kite! WooHoo. Curiously, the Twelve Apostles were originally named ‘Sow and Piglets'. Can you believe that... Thank God they finally gave it something more auspicious. Anyway, if you're still doing well for pace, it will be a late dinner at Port Fairy. As Sacha Baron Cohen's alter ego says, "Nice!"
Sow and Piglets I don't think... Tweleve Apostles is far more auspicious.
This second stage is even more tactical than the first. You'll want to avoid being on top of Cape Otway, even though it represents the shortest distance, as this is the maximum current flow area and also has a bigger, sloppier seaway.
Look out for Moonlight Head, for like the Carrum Bight and other windless holes, this one is full of disappointment. One you may experience for yourself and get a lot of knowing nods in the bar, when you ultimately get game enough to tell the story. There can be catabatics off the valleys along here after midnight, as there are large hills around, but the risk here is that the seaward boats are in an overnight ocean breeze.
It would have to be extraordinary conditions for you to NOT be on the rhumbline for the charge into Port Fairy and this will want to be top of mind during this second and very crucial stage. When you see the lights of Warrnambool you may feel your race is actually over. This would be a mistake - big time. The land effects of Port Fairy can mean that the correct approach will gain you many, many places, so keep a keen eye on your angles, because the breeze can soften and go aft in sight of finish line.
Next thing you know, you've arrived. Well done! There's all-weather berthing up the Moyne River, which will protect you from all but your own antics I'm happy to say, as you go from boat to boat saying hello to all your friends. Of course, you're just being social and having at least one with them to welcome them in. Right. I'll back you up. If you're approaching 3m draught, then you'll find it a bit hard to come in. There's a wee ridge in the approach of the channel and it will solely be high-tide movements for you. If you're over 3m deep, then it is exclusively outside in the sheltered bay for you. There are boats to run you around, so all will be fine.
This sign alone should make it easy to get the shore crew along...
This surely is one race where you should not have too much trouble coaxing the shore crew along. In some ways they may even have more fun than you! What with Cape Otway, the Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, they're bound to have an absolute WOW of a time themselves - possibly taking longer than you to get to Port Fairy in the process, but hopefully not as long as it took to make the Great Ocean Road itself. Begun in 1918 as a monument to the fallen soldiers of the Great War, it was literally carved out of the cliffs and coast that had claimed over 700 ships and countless lives in the early days of Bass Strait. Completed in 1932 it has gone on to become something to see and experience for persons the world over.
B&B as done in Port Fairy style.
Otway Glades rain forrest walk in the tree tops.
This is the Youth Hostel. Yes YHA - nice digs eh?
Shore crew will love the activities...
A much shorter timeframe to comprehend is the race record of 14hours, 26minutes and 20seconds, which was set by ‘Quasimodo' way back in 1984!!! Clearly everyone has been running around with humps on their keel since then. Wouldn't you think it is time for one of the big new toys to get out there and break it???
One last tactical decision for you is your departure time from Port Fairy. If you leave at around lunchtime, you'll make the Twelve Apostles for sunset and equally, a really, really early departure will get you there for sunrise. Note to Self - Please also check the tide for your exit from the Moyne River... Oldtimers wait for the water to be over the horizontal plank along the jetty.
So go on! You know you want to. Go off with the fairies, but to do it you'll have to submit your application by Wednesday, April, 2019. The race starts at 01.00hrs on Good Friday, which this year is April 19.
OK. Thank you for reading. Now, this year's race gets underway April 19th at 01:00 from dear old Draper's Reef. Enjoy!!! You can still enter this wonderful race.
© John Curnow, ORCV Media
Please contact me for re-issue rights.
This is one hell of a
Bring the shore crew - they'll love