Melbourne to King Island Race 2011 Morning glory

Head East. - Melbourne to King Island
John Curnow ©
Melbourne to King Island Race 2011- The 25 boat fleet, comprising 207 souls, got away at 0100hrs fine and well, with the ships coming out of Port Phillip Heads, straight after them.

Five hours after the gun, at the race organisers, Ocean Racing Club of Victoria (ORCV) 0600hrs radio sked, Gusto and Scarlet Runner were just 14nm down the 114nm track and had already used up half of the required time to be on record pace.

Only a few minutes out of King Island, these whitecaps indicated a good 15+knots out in Bass Strait on Friday. - Melbourne to king Island
John Curnow ©


In other words, to get back on pace, they would have to have done 20 knots average for the remaining five hours.

Well and truly possible with those two vessels, but highly unlikely given that the AIS beacons on a couple of vessels were showing just a tenth of that speed. i.e. Two and a bit knots. Doh!

It's a glorious morning here on King Island in the middle of Bass Strait, with the sun coming up in a golden blaze and a gentle 10 to 15 knots blowing from the East Nor'east. So then, the roos love us and the sunrise is delightful.

The steak last night was up to the usual impeccable standard and it is delightfully moderate, with only a jumper and beanie required.

Sunrise over the homestead, near Grassy Harbour. - Melbourne to King Island 2011
John Curnow ©


Ostensibly, the runners in tomorrow's annual, 20-mile race across King Island will be moving faster than the yachts and unless the wind kicks in, they will get across their finish line before the last of the fleet arrives.

Originally, the hope was for a downwind race in a strong enough Nor'easter. A brisk trip in the sun, where it was more about sunscreen than wet weather gear.

For at least a week leading in to the race, most of the models seemed to show that it would pan out that way, too. At the front of the fleet, you had Gusto, who won the Melbourne to Stanley race last year, set a new record for the 2010 Boxing Day Dash from Port Melbourne to Blairgowrie and then went on to win the mighty Westcoaster, doing 25 knots across the bottom of Tasmania in the process.

Speaking with Rob Date of Scarlet Runner, who won the Adelaide to Port Lincoln race recently, he said, 'Hopefully we won't be eight minutes behind the gun for the start of the King Island race and it would be tremendous to not have to deal with the rain, as well!'

Of course, Scarlet Runner went on to win IRC for the whole Lexus Lincoln Week, as well, which did cap off a great time in South Australia for them.

There are some first timers also coming to partake of the deep and protected waters of Grassy, to say nothing of the steak sandwiches or the crayfish. Also attending will be venerable ocean racers like Yoko, along with a plethora of 35 to 40 footers.

Current record holder, Cadibarra 8, is racing, after having come back to Melbourne from Queensland. She could do well on handicap, as will Alien, Extasea, Slinky Malinky, Halcyon and White Noise. Jason Close's new Beneteau First 35 got ready just before the start of the run to Launceston at Christmas last year and she, along with Peter Dunne's Upbeat (a Beneteau First 36.7), both of which did well for the entire three-race series.

'If we look at the four day forecast map, we will see that we will have a weak cold front and a trough passing through the race course on Saturday. The effect of the trough will be that the boats in the right position on the racecourse will win.

So rhumbline sailing is to be avoided at all costs! You will be lucky if the wind exceeds 15 knots for the race. If you look at the two PredictWind models, you will see that for the Beneteau First 40 and the 52-footer, both the GFC and the CMC computer models are predicting the same route, which is to go well East of the rhumbline, so that you don’t end up running downwind in no wind. Not fast at all', the ORCV Brass commented.

'Despite it all looking the same, it won’t stay that way with trough moving around, so you will have play it as you see it. All the other information says the same thing - it won’t stay the same and your strategy will have to change, as the race develops.

Looking at the tides provided by Tidetech, we note that these will not help the attempt at the record or indeed getting to Grassy Harbour, as the tide will be against them on Saturday afternoon', was the final point made.

On the trip down to King Island yesterday, after a cool and oh-so-grey morning in Melbourne, the haze and muck finally burnt off and the plane ultimately got in the air.

Sunny, blue and pleasant skies greeted us and I got the feeling we were about to witness on the Friday, what all the models had been saying for over a week was going to be occurring on the Saturday.

As we got in to Bass Strait, you could not help thinking 24 hours seemed like a very special amount of time indeed. Now that the time has passed, we can definitely say that this has been the case.

One boat has just booked the suite opposite us, telling the proprietors '...we're going to be tired!' We cannot help feeling this will be from the constant vigilance and sail trimming, more than the outright exertion.

More information and vessel positions available at orcv.org.au

Scarlet Runner on her way to winning the recent Adelaide to Port Lincoln race. - Melbourne to King island