THE Dial Before You Dig George Bass Surf Marathon 2013/14 wrapped on the weekend after seven days of gruelling rowing and paddling down the Far South Coast of NSW.
The Narooma Veteran Men dominated proceedings going unbeaten, while Bulli won the Open Men’s, Torquay won the Open Women’s and Avalon Beach won the Veteran Women’s divisions.
From the very first day when the opening leg from Batemans Bay to Moruya was shortened, ocean conditions were particularly challenging for competitors and the team of organisers.
The boats were forced to row a loop in and out of Bermagui on Day 4 after a strong southerly blocked to their path Tathra.
Then on the final day that normally sees rowers travel from Merimbula to Eden, organisers faced with another southerly forecast decided to reverse the race.
Rowers and ski paddlers on Day 7 took off from the Eden harbour and hugged the coast to Pambula surf club on what turned out to be benign conditions perfect for the surfboats.
The ski paddlers then the Veteran and Open women crews were given a good head start followed by the Veteran Men.
Narooma led the Veterans pack around out of Twofold Bay waiting for the crews behind them to conduct their first four-man crew change before conducting their own crew change.
The Northcliffe veteran men had pledged to give everything to stay with Narooma after there close race the day before into Pambula, but none of the vets crews could stay on the back of Narooma.
The team motto this year was “Win or Die!”
Narooma closed in on the women crews as they approached the treacherous gap between the mainland and island at Haycock Point.
Support boats from the men’s crews and director’s boat rushed ahead to check out conditions and were greeted with a good surf breaking in the gap and spotters reported seeing ski-paddlers walking across the shallow reef.
The race director’s boat then rushed back through the boats waving them away from the gap and around the point.
At the briefing the night before race organisers cautioned rowers against travelling the gap, which has seen surfboats run high and dry in previous years.
But the Bulli Veterans had words to organisers on the water arguing the direction should have come earlier so they could have taken a different line, but all the boats were heading in the same direction anyway.
After rounding Haycock Point it was as short sprint into the Pambula surf club with Narooma overtaking some of the Women crews.
There was a short burst by Narooma as the Bulli Open Men slowly overtook them on the final stretch, a scenario that played out previously over each leg with Narooma only being beaten by the younger Bulli crew into almost all the finishes.
The presentation was held at the Lakeview Hotel in Merimbula on Saturday afternoon.
Race director Bert Hunt said the emphasis this year had very much been on safety and keeping competitors safe, with the weather conditions forcing some difficult decisions.
Those accepting the awards thanked the organisers and said the decisions had been good ones.
The two sons of race founder WB “Curly” Annabel were on hand at the presentation and said their father would be pleased and amazed to see the race named after the early explorer still going after all these years.
Race sponsors Dial Before You Dig and the Royal Australian Navy were also thanked by the teams as they accepted their awards.
Crews including Northcliffe, Queensland promised to spread the word and get more surfboat crews involved in the epic race that will be on again in 2015/2016.
Narooma ski paddler Nick Ziviani celebrated a sixth place in this his fourth race paddling but he also rowed for Narooma four times before that.
Fellow Eurobodalla paddler Norm Lenahan of Moruya finished ninth.
Bermagui fielded a mixed team in the Veterans division and its men and women rowers did amazingly well to finish sixth.
The Narooma News plans to speak to Bermagui sweep Rob Shaw and Narooma sweep Brendan Constable later today to get their take on this year's marathon.
The Narooma team sang its traditional team Minke Whale song led by rower Unto Holopainen who is now contemplating rowing his 12th George Bass next time.
Narooma, Bermagui sweeps give thanks
THE sweeps of the Narooma and Bermagui crews have given thanks to their rowers, supporters and organisers.
“I want to thank the rowers for the commitment, training every day in the lead up to the race, either by themselves or with the team,” Narooma sweep Brendan Constable said.
“Our preparation was the key to doing well and I also want to thank the wives, families, community and sponsors for their support over the last couple of months and during the race.”
He also singled out Ray Hirst, Glen McDonald, Billy Wilton, Chris Young, Paul White and Cheryl Constable for setting up the camps and helping during the race, Graeme Sawyer for his help with training, masseuse Jacinta Ryan and also support boat drivers Cameron Rowley and Stan Gorton.
Bensley's Buses Braidwood donated the use of the bus.
Narooma Surf Life Saving Club president Steve Dobson joined the race safety committee and Brendan praised organisers for shortening the changing the courses when the weather was bad.
The Narooma crew now plans to enter surfboat sprint races including the Country Championships in Mollymook later this month, as well as in local carnivals.
“Sprinting is a different kind of racing, so we are going to be on a learning curve,” he said.
Bermagui sweep Rob Shaw also thanked his rowers, supporters and sponsors.
“It was a successful campaign and Bermagui was the only mixed crew,” he said. “The girls did an awesome job racing against the men.”
He also praised the two young rowers Rowan Blake and Luke Kingston, who at age 16 and 17 stepped up with only three months’ notice.
He too said the race organisers did the right thing shortening and reversing the legs to keep the crews safe.
He singled out support boat drivers Dave Rhodes, Reg and Judy LeCompte and Rob Pollock from the Broulee club, as well as the sponsors and parents who helped out during the race.
And Bermagui hopes to back for the next George Bass in two years’ time.
The overall results for the Dial Before You Dig George Bass Surf Marathon 2013/14 are as follows:
Ski paddlers -
1. Michael Locke (Bulli) 2. Dean Little (Red Head) 3. Buttel (Wanda) 4. Altman (Torquay) 5. Morton (Stanwell Park) 6. Ziviani (Narooma) 7. Vipond (Mooloolaba) 8. Granger (Pambula) 9. Lenehan (Moruya) 10. King (Lakes Entrance) 11. Kelly (Pambula) 12. Solly (Anglesea) 13. Solly (Anglesea) 14. Mead (Wanda), Ryan (Moruya), Porter (Anglesea), Poland (Nowra Culburra)
Open Men's boats -
1. Bulli (1 point) 2. Moruya Vikings (6 points) 3. Rod's Wollongong City (18 points) 4. Moruya DBYD (19 points) 5. Ken's Wollongong City (26 points)
Men's Vets boats -
1. Narooma (0 points) 2. Northcliffe (11 points) 3. Bulli (17 points) 4. Tathra (17 points) 5. Queenscliff (27 points) 6. Bermagui (35 points) 7. Pambula (40 points)
Open Women's boats -
1. Torquay (1 point) 2. Moruya Met Caloundra (10 points) 3. Broulee Capitals (10 points)
Women's Vets boats -
1. Avalon Beach (5 points) 2. Broulee Bats (9 points) 3. Tathra (14 points) and Anglesea (14 points)