George Bass Surfboat Marathon – bluebottle tangles on day two

Paul Jones leading the Bulli Open Mens home. Photo: Les Herstik.
Paul Jones leading the Bulli Open Men home. Photo: Les Herstik.

Day two of the George Bass Surfboat Marathon was a slog, with the events 25 entries having to punch through a stiff southerly breeze and swell to make it to Coila Beach at Tuross.

The 18km leg started with a tribute to a stalwart of the Moruya Surf Club and the Bass, Lesley Pheeney.

Lesley was the race secretary for many years and worked side by side with her late husband, Dave in the Far South Coast Surf Lifesaving Association. Lesley and Dave have been reunited at sea, with a salute from Bass crews who raised their oars into the sky for one minute silence.

Fresh from New Year Eve celebrations, competitors in the George Bass Surf Ski Marathon were the first to set off. Pambula’s Jacqui Keogh, the only woman in the ski race was forced to retire with a broken rudder in the testing conditions.

Around one and a half hours later the ski fleet was returning to shore. Narooma’s Nick Ziviani and Joe Halsey in their duel ski the first home followed by Brendan Cowled and Tony Ireland.

Day two, single ski results:

First – Paul Buttle (1:33:24)
Second – John Pattison
Third – Nick Kirby
Fourth – Stephen Bunney
Fifth – Simon Stenhouse
Sixth – Gavin Granger
Seventh – David Schofield
Eighth – Craig Vipond
Ninth – Nathan Vipond
Tenth –  Warwick Ward
Eleventh – Jacqui Keough (DNF)

Nathan Vipond headed for the beach. Photo: Les Herstik
Nathan Vipond headed for the beach. Photo: Les Herstik

A large, supportive crowd packed the walkway and headland overlooking Coila Beach to welcome the surfboats home, locals and holidaymakers impressed with the ticker of competitors who over the course of seven days will row to Eden, 188km away.

The Bulli Open Mens crew put in another dominant performance overtaking the entire fleet. The club is vying for its forth consecutive overall win.

Paul Jones is Bulli sweep and is competing in his eighth Bass, “It was a tough day, the wind got up earlier than expected, luckily it was a shorter day,” he says.

Bluebottles added to the challenge, with rowers getting tangled in the stingers during their changeovers at seas. Fresh rowers in some boats forging on with blue tentacles wrapped around arms, legs, and necks.

Those changeovers at sea are a critical part of the race, how and when they happen is up to each crew.

“We try not to lose boat speed,” Paul says.

“We get two guys to jump out while the two guys left in the boat keep rowing, the other guys need to get in as best they can, but we don’t want the boat stopping dead.”

Day two, Open Men results:

First – Bulli (2:00:55)
Second – Coogee
Third – Mollymook
Fourth – Long Reef
Fifth – Pambula

Day two, Open Women results:

First – North Cronulla (2:08:45)
Second – Broulee
Third – Moruya
Fourth – Broulee Canberra Capital

Day two, Masters Men results:

First – North Cronulla (2:02:11)
Second – Narooma
Third – Wollongong City
Fourth – Grange SA
Fifth – Tathra
Sixth – Wanda
Seventh – Noosa Qls
Eighth – Broulee Canberra Capitals
Ninth – Bulli
Tenth  – Pambula
Eleventh – Warriewood

Day two, Masters Women results:

First – Pambula (2:23:48)
Second – Torquay Vic
Third – Avalon Beach
Fourth – Darwin NT
Fifth – Broulee

The Darwin Womens Master crew, rowing in a boat borrowed from Bermagui SLSC. Photo: Les Herstik.
The Darwin Womens Masters crew, rowing in a boat borrowed from Bermagui SLSC. Photo: Les Herstik.

The end of the race was a stark contrast to the drama of yesterday.

Marathon organiser Andrew Edmunds says crews are relieved to hear the the 66-year-old male sweep from Pambula who had a heart attack on the finish line at Moruya is improving in hospital.

“He is currently awaiting surgery and we hope he’ll be out of hospital in a few days,” Andrew says.

“The situation highlighted how everyone participating in this event are surf lifesavers first and competitors second, with the Pambula crew, a Grange competitor, a rower from Mollymook and Moruya lifesavers all clicking into action as soon as the emergency situation arose.”

Most crews took the opportunity to rest one or two members today,  as they will most days now ahead of the finish in Eden on January 6.

Day 3 starts off Coila Beach, with the skis setting off at 8:30am and 9am, followed by the surfboats at five-minute intervals. The finish line is 22km away in front of Narooma Surf Club, the first competitors are expected to arrive one to two hours after the start.

You can stay in touch with the field via the George Bass Live Tracker.

For more photos head to the George Bass Facebook page.

*Ian Campbell is traveling as a guest of the George Bass Surfboat Marathon.