Marlay Point Overnight Race 2023: great company, good sailing, terrible result

Juan Guerschman
5 min readMar 24, 2023

After being away for three years, it was time to do the Marlay Point Overnight Race (MPONR) again. In 2020, just as COVID was starting to make headlines, I sailed in MPONR with Wendy and Simon. We had a blast and even achieved a surprisingly good result. In the following two years, I took Mate to the Wallagoot Lake regatta, which happens on the same long weekend in March. In 2021 with the family (video 1 and video 2), and in 2022 with Adam in a de facto match race.

This year’s race had a record-breaking 13 Castles registered. The crew aboard Mate included Tatsu and Kes. Tatsu started sailing with me in Mate in the spring of 2022, Kes joined in early 2023. Both of them quickly adapted to the Castle, and as a team, we finished 3rd in Championship and 1st in Pointscore in the Canberra Yacht Club’s 2022/2023 season. With these results we sure have to do well in MPONR I thought… Not so fast!!

Tatsu (left) enjoying mate. Apparently, it is his new favorite drink and replaced his coffee, or so he claims. Kes (right) well… he said “the flavour is interesting”.

Tatsu and I drove down with the boat on the Friday. We got to Paynesville early, rigged the boat, did a bit of shopping and as the breeze was quite nice from the SE we decided to go sailing to Loch Sport. Lovely and relaxed sail with a sunset, arrived to the marina just on time for dinner at the pub with the crew of Pathfinder, Bite Me and Rum Cay, three other boats from Canberra. On Saturday morning we continued our way up to Marlay Point where we arrived around lunchtime. Kes joined us there and around 3 pm we moved to the Avon River to have a bit of a rest and wait for the race to start.

The crew before the race.

The Race

Saturday afternoon had a lovely breeze which lasted well until around midnight. The first part of the race, in Lake Wellington, was very pleasant and enjoyable with 10–15 knots of wind. We didn’t start very well but not a big deal in such a long race (note to self: next time read the bloody sailing instructions!! It’s all very clear there including what the flares mean). We got to the straits in 3 hours and once in there we basically drifted downstream in a ~1-knot current. In the straits, we stayed very close to Relentless and More Mischief, two other Castles. Getting out of there (3 hours later) with a light breeze again, we chose to put the spinnaker up, and we slowly left the two other Castles behind. Everything went very calm past Storm Point, already 4 or 5 in the morning, and we were happy with the result so far. I was estimating to be halfway in the Castle fleet, maybe in the top half, and the estimate proved to be correct later on.

Map showing our course and relevant points. My GPT tracker run out of battery south of Raymond Island and the last bit of the race is missing.

From there on, things started to go not so well. Looking behind, the “Christmas tree” of green and red lights was getting closer. The wind died completely at some point. We were all getting very tired, Kes and Tatsu had a bit of sleep each but I preferred not to and stayed at the helm. With dawn, a bit of light breeze came back and I started to see some boats going faster than us. More Mischief overtook us. Then another Castle, and another. We crossed the first finish line at around 7:40 am, but we still had the Raymond Island loop ahead. More Castles chasing (of course many other boats, but I was obsessed with the other 12 Castles as if it was a division on its own). Two more overtook us around Paynesville. Damn, we were slow!! North of Raymond Island a bit more of kite and ok speed (just ok). The last 2 or 3 Castles overtook us in the last part of the race, south of the island, we were still slow and also got a late wind shift to the west in the wrong spot. Finished the race at 11:23 am, 15 hours and 38 minutes after starting. We finished 30th out of 45 boats in the division. Did we still have any other Castle behind? It turns out we didn’t, we were the last one! Ouch!

We put the boat on the trailer (when we discovered a huge amount of seaweed in the rudder, another note to self: clean it up often during the race!!) and went to the club to have some breakfast and see who was there and who had won. Pipalini did it again, but it was a very close finish, only 4 seconds in front of Castaway and Rook just 30 seconds behind. Apparently the closest finish in 54 years of MPONR (to be confirmed). Congratulations to Mitch, a damn good sailor and great guy. Also a great result for Redback in 4th place, the best Canberra Castle in the division.

After taking a nap on board Saturday afternoon, we joined the Victorian trailer sailors for a BBQ in Raymond Island. We headed back to our boat for more rest and left for Canberra early Sunday morning.

I’ve been thinking about what happened in that second part of the race. I once read “if a guy has been hit by 30 bullets it’s difficult to know which one killed him”. And I think this was the case here. We had a combination of the following: too tired and losing concentration, particularly between 4–6 am; lack of skill steering the boat in very light winds (a recurrent problem of mine); rig not set properly; seaweed in the rudder (I wonder for how long we had that) and boat too heavy with stuff I don’t need when racing. All things we will try and do better next time.

The good news is that Tatsu and Kes enjoyed the experience and we all want revenge in 2024. We will be back!