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Apollo Bay Race 2024

Tactics and determination secures Valiant the win in the 2024 Apollo Bay Race

Valiant, an Adams 10.6 skippered by Jason Farnell from the Royal Geelong Yacht Club, is the overall winner of this year’s Melbourne to Apollo Bay Race.

The 52 nautical mile race, run by the Ocean Racing Club of Victoria (ORCV), tested the resolve of the most patient sailors, but Valiant was more than up to the challenge, winning overall on AMS handicap, with a corrected time of 9 hours, 28 minutes and 25 seconds, nearly 10 minutes ahead of Ginan and a further ten minutes back to How Bizarre.

Peccadillo, skippered by Charles Meredith, took out line honours for multihulls while Scarlet Runner, skippered by Rob Date, was the first monohull home.

With a 6am kickoff, the near record 43-boat fleet made its way to the start line in the dark with just the city lights casting iridescent colours on the waters of Port Phillip Bay and then nothing but moonlight as they exited the heads and approached the start in the vicinity of Canberra Wreck.

The soft autumnal weather and forecast light winds proved a challenge for race management and sailors, with the breezes fluctuating between 3 and 15 knots during the morning resulting in nearly half the fleet retiring from the race, frustrated by the lack of breeze.

Farnell, sailing with Ben Ramage, his daughter Imogen and son Will, a young dinghy sailor, was genuinely surprised with the win which bodes well for the newcomers to offshore sailing.

“Starting the race in the dark was interesting, as was avoiding the over-optimistic port tackers on the start line, but we did really well in the first half of the race to Lorne… it was truly glamour sailing.

“I think we were about sixth to the [virtual] gate and then we made it a priority not to lose too much ground on the second half through to Apollo Bay,” said Farnell.

Farnell credits his win to his crew and their tactics in the first half of the race.

“We have a pretty small and a mostly family crew… we were generally pretty happy with our race and were really quite surprised to feature in the results which we didn’t actually realise until we were on the way back [to Melbourne],” said Farnell.

Farnell’s homework before the race certainly served the team well on the water.

“We had a very good run – we studied the course and the weather a lot beforehand but what made it a bit trickier was the breeze coming through in bands throughout the race, which meant the breeze didn’t fully favour boats close to the shore or the boats further offshore,” said Farnell.

Farnell, who also took out AMS Division 2, bought Valiant in 2023 to introduce the family to some adventure sailing and found the race to Apollo Bay a great introduction to offshore racing.

“The ORCV does a great job running these events – they make it all seamless which really helps and ensures we all have a great experience,” said Farnell.

Ginan after they crossed the finish - 2024 Apollo Bay Race - photo © Cam McKenzie
Ginan after they crossed the finish – 2024 Apollo Bay Race – photo © Cam McKenzie

Cameron McKenzie and Nigel Jones, skippers of the J111 Ginan, have not put a foot wrong this season and the race to Apollo Bay Race was no exception with the experienced team finishing second across the line behind Scarlet Runner.

McKenzie and Jones, both from the Mornington Yacht Club, were thrilled to clinch the 2023-24 Coastal Championship with yet another strong performance in the final offshore race of the season.

“We got off to a good clean start, despite dodging lots of boats in the chaos on the start line and got our 1.5 chute up early to get clear of dirty air.

“We were seeing more breeze than the weather models were predicting before the race… our pre-race game plan was to sail wide and out to sea but the wind wasn’t aligning with this so we decided to sail straight down the rhumb line to make progress to Apollo Bay as quickly as possible.

“We were in good shape at the gate and were fourth across the line behind Scarlet Runner, Extasea and the multihull, Peccadillo.”

“We were aware that we had fallen foul of the wind shadows off Lorne before, so when we could see that the top boats were starting to slow, we made the conscious decision to sail a bit wider than the guys up front and were lucky enough to make some gains.

“We had lots of sail changes, from our J1 to the Code Zero and then the windseeker which was actually the best choice.

“After passing Peccadillo and Extasea, we had a good dice with Scarlet [Runner] for a few hours, then she got some speed on and took the line honours win and we were second across the line,” said McKenzie.

Ginan, winner of the 2023-24 ORCV Coastal Championship - photo © Dave Hewison
Ginan, winner of the 2023-24 ORCV Coastal Championship – photo © Dave Hewison

Ginan also took out Division 1 on AMS, ORC and PHS and was the overall winner on ORC.

McKenzie credits the success of Ginan to the skills and sailing ability of the crew and helms.

“Our crew does a great job of trimming in all conditions, they really are outstanding,” said McKenzie.

Scott Robinson, skipper of the Seaquest RP36, How Bizarre, also navigated the race complexities well and capped off a solid offshore season, finishing in third on AMS overall, and second in Division 1 on AMS, ORC and PHS.

Robinson recounted his strategy for the race, highlighting the inshore / offshore dilemma facing tacticians, and also shared a few ‘highlights’ from the race.

“Our race tactics were to stay out wide off the coast before and after going through the ‘midway’ gate off Lorne.

“We’re always nervous about going inshore along the hills in this race because it’s always been like the Bermuda Triangle for us.

“We had an amazing start…we turned from starboard tack around the start boat on the starting gun and probably would have been first boat across the line, the only issue was our keel hooked the start boat’s anchor line so we stopped dead in our tracks. From there, it took another ten to fifteen minutes to get unhooked, so we went from first to last across the line.

“Once clear we had to work hard to get back in touch in the race – I’m really proud of the crew and their efforts in making this happen…to get to Apollo Bay was very special to us.

“I want to acknowledge the great work of the ORCV Race Committee for managing this race around the weather… it was tricky but I thought the Lorne ‘gate’ was a great concept in case the weather went completely vertical, and because of it, we were able to finish the race,” said Robinson.

Interest in double-handed sailing continues to rise, with some competitors using the Apollo Bay Race as a lead-up event to the 2025 Melbourne to Osaka Race.

Maverick, skippered by Tony Hammond and Rod Smallman took the double-handed silverware on PHS handicap from Alex Team Macadie, skippered by Jock Macadie, and Joker X2, skippered by Grant Chipperfield and Martin Vaughan.

Maverick, winner of the 38 South Yacht Sales Double-Handed Offshore Championship - 2024 Apollo Bay Race - photo © Dave Hewison
Maverick, winner of the 38 South Yacht Sales Double-Handed Offshore Championship – 2024 Apollo Bay Race – photo © Dave Hewison

Maverick capped off a great season to win the 38 South Yacht Sales Double-Handed Offshore Championship. The title is awarded to the best-performed Monohull Double-Handed Division yacht, decided on PHS handicap results.

While the race may have been slow going, the fleet was entertained by frolicking dolphins, seals, baby penguins and even a whale, while ORCV Life Member Neville Rose celebrated his 60th birthday onboard Blue Water Tracks complete with candles and cake.

In line with the ORCV’s commitment to marine sustainability and clean oceans, the fleet was asked to eliminate single use water bottles and profile reusable ones throughout the race with Nat Reidy from Vagabond the lucky winner of a $100 voucher from Ronstan for her commitment to this cause.

The Apollo Bay Race is the last of the ORCV’s offshore sailing program for the 2023-24 sailing season.

For full results click here.

Night time start from a competitor Renee Buchanan - 2024 Apollo Bay Race - photo © Renee Buchanan
Night time start from a competitor Renee Buchanan – 2024 Apollo Bay Race – photo © Renee Buchanan

by Jane Austin / ORCV Media

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