Endurance racing at its finest.
On the 25th of March, the ‘Around French Island Catamaran Challenge’ took place on the beautiful waters of Westernport Bay in Victoria. The course is a circumnavigation of French Island, covering a distance of approximately 42 kilometres. The race typically takes around 4-5 hours to complete, depending on wind conditions. The race also sees a prize pool of $10,000 attracting some of the best sailors from around the country.
This year over 50 Catamarans entered the event, with the Hobie Class well represented hosting seven Hobie 16s on the start line. It was looking to be a day of great racing with a consistent 10 -15kt breeze blowing across Westernport Bay. This year also saw a change of direction. Commencing the marathon with a downwind, the fleet sailed clockwise around French Island, finishing with a tiring upwind beat to the finish.
Participants in the race encountered a variety of sailing conditions, including challenging winds, strong currents, and shallow waters. The race is a test of skill and endurance, requiring participants to be both skilled sailors and navigators.
Off the start, the Hobie fleet were close together, gradually spreading out on the first leg. Emma & Zoe Morris took an early lead, followed closely by Rowdie & Joey Thomas. Experienced father-daughter team Nigel & Abi Beddoe continued to push out to the right of the course hoping to find the wind with Matilda & Simon Morris hot on their stern.
Tim Chiu & Zak Rowdon began to creep up into third with their combined wisdom, whilst Somers newcomers David & John were bring the heat close behind in their inaugural marathon. Around the backside of the island the wind picked up to a steady 15 knots with some screaming reaching seeing Rowdie & Joey take the lead. The fleet saw tough conditions upwind towards the finish, as tough tidal waters and shifting winds brought the best out of the mariners.
Rowdie & Joey finished the adventure in just over 5 hours as first Hobie 16 & second in Division 2. Nigel & Abi, snuck into second with Zak & Tim only a stone’s through behind them, whilst Emma & Zoe crossed the line as fourth Hobie 16 and first all-female crew on corrected time. Congratulations to the whole Hobie fleet on completing the course and for taking out top spots in the division.
As for myself I had youngster Finn on board for his first taste of endurance racing and we thoroughly enjoyed this challenging race and would encourage any Hobie sailors to join the fleet in the coming years. The Hobie 16 is an amazing boat and shows that it is in its element, not only on the short course but also on the endurance scene. Thanks, as usual to all the Hobie sailors that make racing so enjoyable, and to Cowes Yacht Club for running another flawless event.
Luke Crouch | Media Hobie Cat Association of Victoria