10 January 2023

George Bass finishes with an historic one-two win for Moruya

| Karyn Starmer
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surf boat

Conditions deteriorated on the final legs of the George Bass Surf Marathon to what some competitors described as the worst rowing conditions they have been in. Photo: Nick Peters Photography.

Named for the famed explorer, the 2023 George Bass Surf Marathon finished in the similarly ”boisterous” southerly swells that George Bass himself described as he journeyed down the coast from Port Jackson to Tasmania in 1797.

That the race finished at all was an achievement. Race director Andrew Holt says this year, the organisers were determined to complete all seven legs and make it to Eden simply for the future of the event.

“With three missed starts due to bushfire and COVID-19, it’s been five years since we managed to complete a Bass,” he says.

“While weather and sea conditions forced us to utilise our pre-planned contingencies for four legs out of seven, we had it under control and completed the event. We finished, and that was important.

“The low came in a little earlier than predicted and by Day 3, it settled in for the rest of the race but that is all part of this event.”

The George Bass covers 190km from Batemans Bay to Eden over seven days.

By Day 4, the heavy conditions were beginning to take a toll on competitors and the finish at Tathra saw two people taken to hospital due to broken bones during mishaps in the waves.

Conditions deteriorated on Days 5 and 6 to what some competitors described as the worst rowing conditions they have been in. Huge swells from the north combined with the southerly wind and in some places were bouncing off the shoreline cliffs.

But billed as the toughest, longest surf boat race in the world, the competitors come for the tough conditions and the standout crew for the 2023 Bass was the Moruya Vikings, who toughed it out to claim the Open Men’s category in a masterly display of athleticism and skill, winning in a time of 12:52:56.

READ MORE Close contest as the George Bass Surf Marathon approaches finish in tough conditions

Sweep Gavin Hunt says the crew of nine was forced by distance to train individually for the event and only came together three weeks prior.

“Most of this crew have rowed together for previous Basses, in 2020, 2010 and 2008, and are experienced rowers but aged between 40 and 50, and to be training individually, mostly on rowing machines at the gym, to come together for a win like this, and winning all seven legs, was a phenomenal achievement,” Gavin says.

A second Moruya-based crew helped make Bass history to make it a one-two on the Open Men’s division for Moruya SLSC.

group of rowers

Moruya SLSC crews celebrating the historic one-two win at Eden. Photo: Moruya SLSC.

Club president Jane Coppin says it is a testament to what small country surf clubs can do.

“The George Bass has been running since 1975 and Moruya has competed in every single race, but this is the first time in the event history that a club has won first and second in a division,” Jane says.

“The Moruya-based crew had four young rowers in their first Bass. They did so well and are hungry for more. And to watch both crews come together and support each other, on the beach and in camp, was something truly special and inspiring.”

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Nathan Haythorpe on the surf ski was fastest overall with a time of 12:08:10.

Tathra won the Male Vet Boat category as the second-fastest surf boat overall with a time of 13:06:01.

North Cronulla won Males Super Vet Boat in 13:38:05 and Portsea won the Open Female Boat in 14:12:35, with Tathra winning Female Vet Boat in 15:00:03.

Find the full results via George Bass Surf Boat Marathon

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