THE Marlay Point Overnight Race will celebrate its 50th race on March 10, and entries are rolling in.
With more than three times as many entries already received as the same time in recent years, organisers are confident this year will offer the strongest field since the 1990s.
A huge 101 trailable yachts and multi-hulls have entered to date. Twenty-two of these are new entrants with the Marlay Point featuring in most trailer sailor’s bucket lists.
Entry secretary John Shepard raced his first Overnighter in 1978 and has been involved in organising the event for 18 years. He remembered the early years, when more than 500 boats entered every year for almost a decade.
“The atmosphere at the start with a large fleet is very exciting and tense as crews find the best way to get clear of their competitors, but once things settle down there is time to appreciate the beauty and peace of sailing through the night and into the new dawn,” Shepard said, adding that McLennan Straits required great concentration when navigating the narrow channel surrounded by such a large fleet.
For the first time in its 50-year history, there will be a classic division included, with a “classic boat” defined as a vessel over 30 years old and between 4.8 and 10.5 metres in overall length.
The idea of the Marlay Point Overnight Race came about in 1968. It was decided by the Lake Wellington Yacht Club that an overnight race for trailable yachts would provide a great challenge to sailors.
It would be a marathon event for the smaller boats, with racing taking place from Marlay Point to Metung.
Twenty-nine boats, ranging in size from 16-39ft entered in the first race. One skipper from the first race has entered to sail in this year’s race.
Throughout its 50-year history, over 10,000 boats and 45,000 sailors have entered the race, with the course shortening to finish in Paynesville.
In its peak years in the 1980s, hundreds of boats would enter, with the highest number ever recorded as 680 in 1987, making the Marlay Point Overnight Race one of the most popular races in Australian history.
After lots of hard work from the organising committee, Gippsland Ports has begun dredging the waterways out the front of the club and the boat ramp to facilitate the massive number of boats, and extra taxi boats will be available to ferry crews back and forth so they can enjoy the onshore activities too.
To celebrate the 50th race, there will be some extra events held both before and after the race, including a gala dinner on the Friday night, a family fun day on the Saturday before the race and a presentation at 5pm on the Sunday at the Gippsland Lakes Yacht Club.
To enter the race or for more information about the 50th celebrations, visit www.mponr.com.au.