Rowers and ski paddlers ready to start their conquest of the mighty George Bass Surfboat Marathon are settling into their Moruya High campground ready for a start on the last day of 2017.
This one of a kind event starts at the Batemans Bay Bridge tomorrow (Dec 31) morning. For the seven days that follow crews and competitors from around Australia will make their way to the finish line in Eden 188km away.
After the Clyde River start, day 1 will see competitors sweep past Malau Bay, Tomakin, and Broulee finishing in front of Moruya Surf Club at South Head.
The surf ski paddlers will be the first to go at 9:30 followed by the first of the surf boats at 9:45.
The men’s surf boat record over the 31km’s is 2:20:44 set by Batemans Bay in 2008, the women’s record stands at 2:34:04 (Torquay 2012), while Tim Jacobs run in 2008 is still the benchmark for the surf skis – 2:15:20.
Gathering at Tomakin this afternoon for their first pre-race briefing, crews and paddlers looked fresh and ready to go after months of training.
Gary Pettigrove is sweeping for the Broulee Capitals Open Women, a Canberra based crew that rows under the banner of Broulee Surf Club.
“We’ve been training five mornings a week since May, a 5:30 start on Lake Burley Griffin, and every fortnight we’ve been coming down to have a row on the coast,'” Gary explains.
This will be Gary’s eighth Bass, for some of his rowers it will be their first.
“At the end, you’ve got a memory that lasts a lifetime, it’s a grueling event – seven days, 190k’s, busting your gut the whole way,” Gary says.
“We are a competitive group, but we are here to have fun, that’s the main thing.”
Fitzy is a member of Warriewood Surf Club on Sydney’s Northern Beaches these days but his connections with the other side of our continent has pulled together a masters crew that includes three rowers from Western Australia.
“I used to sweep at City of Perth back in the eighties,” Fitzy says.
“Garbo here was in my crew back in the eighties, he found out that we were doing the Bass and said – I want to have a crack at that.”
“Then he rang up and said I’ve got two mates that want to do it as well,” Fitzy says, and a trans-Australian team rowing under the Warriewood name was born.
Only one member of the Warriewood crew have taken part before, but all have a surf boat background. They range in age between 60 and 65 years and know what they are in for.
“We don’t have sliding seats in our boat, so our arses are in trouble,” Garbo laughs.
Given the distances they have traveled when Warriewood put their oars in the water at Batemans Bay tomorrow it will be the first time they have rowed together as a complete unit.
This will be the twentieth running of the great race, only two clubs have competed in every event – Moruya and Tathra. Tathra is represented this year in the men’s masters, Moruya in the open women’s.
Open Men, crews entered:
Bulli NSW, Coogee NSW, Long Reef NSW, Mollymook NSW, Pambula NSW.
Reigning champions are Bulli who are vying for their third straight overall win.
Open Women, crews entered:
Broulee Blue Bottles NSW, Broulee Canberra Capitals ACT/NSW, Moruya NSW, North Cronulla NSW, Torquay Victoria.
This will be a competitive race, North Cronulla are expected to do well. The three local crews are also up against one of the top teams from Victoria.
Masters Men, crews entered:
Broulee Canberra Capitals ACT/NSW, Bulli NSW, Grange SA, Narooma NSW, Noosa QLD, North Cronulla NSW, Pambula NSW, Tathra NSW, Wanda NSW, Warriewood NSW, Wollongong City NSW.
Narooma will be vying for their third straight overall win but will face stiff competition. With 11 crews entered from across the country it will be a close race.
Masters Women, crews entered:
Darwin NT, Pambula NSW, Broulee NSW, Avalon Beach NSW.
The women give their all and race with a commitment and dedication that is their own, this race is one to watch.
Surf Ski Marathon:
Gavin Granger, Pambula SLSC, NSW
Nathan Vipond, Maroochydore SLSC, QLD
Paul Buttel, Wanda SLSC, NSW
Stephen Bunney, Bermagui SLSC, NSW
John Pattison, Austinmer SLSC, NSW
Jacqui Keogh, Pambula SLSC, NSW
David Schofield, Shoalhaven Heads SLSC, NSW
Nicholas Kirby, North Cronulla SLSC, NSW
Craig Vipond, Maroochydore SLSC QLD
Warwick Ward, Wollongong City SLSC, NSW
Simon Stenhouse, Moruya SLSC, NSW
Dean Gardiner, City of Perth SLSC, WA
Nick Ziviani and Joseph Hasley, Narooma SLSC, NSW
Brendan Cowled and Tony Ireland, Mollymook SLSC, NSW
This year’s ski marathon is one of the largest in recent years and includes double ski competitors which will add to the spectacle.
Competitors will have a southeasterly breeze in their face tomorrow morning at 15 to 20 knots, swinging northeasterly in the afternoon. Seas will be running on a 1 to 2 metre swell under cloudy skies, a top temp of 23 degrees is forecast.
The outgoing tide will be a challenge at the start line, with referee Tony Haven keen to make sure everyone stays behind the line until the hooter sounds. Tony asking crews at this afternoon’s briefing to give each other plenty of room in the run south to avoid a “Wild Oats XI” type penalty.
Family, friends, and fans can follow the race via the George Bass Surfboat Marathon tracker.
*Ian Campbell is traveling with the George Bass Surf Boat Marathon as a guest.