THE iconic Marlay Point Overnight Race will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year and preparations are already underway.
Organisers at the Lake Wellington Yacht Club are expecting a large and varied fleet on the start line on March 10, 2018.
The event began in 1968 and runs during the Labour Day weekend each March. It is the only race of its kind to run purely at night, with vessels starting in Lake Wellington at 7pm, racing through McLennan Strait, and across Lake Victoria to finish in Paynesville the following day.
At its peak in the 1980s, more than 600 boats entered the race, with sailors traveling from every corner of the country to compete in conditions which can range from gusting 15-plus knot breezes to sunrise glass-outs.
Open to trailerable yachts and multihulls, it has become a legendary event in sailing circles. Every year it brings many old and new faces to the Gippsland Lakes, where they can race and cruise through the extensive lake system, enjoying the unspoilt natural beauty the region has to offer.
The 50th anniversary event hopes to recapture the glory days of the 1980s and 90s, when the MPONR was on top of every trailer sailors’ bucket list.
International logistics company CH Robinson has come on board as naming rights sponsor to ensure the golden anniversary will be a success.
President of the company’s Australia and New Zealand office, Tony Considine, has competed in about 10 Overnight races. He said the unique qualities of racing at night drew him back.
“I first did the Marlay Point in 1984, and I’ve done quite a lot since. I love the challenge of sailing at night,” Considine said.
“Most of the racing we do elsewhere is in daylight and on quite short courses, but they’re not as challenging as the Marlay Point can be.
“I really enjoy it. It’s difficult, unusual and really good fun.”
In 2017, 115 entrants made the trek to the Gippsland Lakes, and organisers were hoping to double this number for the 50th anniversary.
Garnering sponsorships such as this with CH Robinson will guarantee competitors and spectators can look forward to not just an exciting race, but also many different activities and celebrations at the start and finish line.
“Smaller races are not attractive to major sponsors. So smaller, local clubs struggle to put races on, and we try to support these people who are behind the scenes doing a lot of work, but really not getting much help,” Considine said.
For more information on the Marlay Point Overnight Race visit the Lake Wellington Yacht Club Facebook page.