On Sunday 1 January a group of 8 committed and maybe slightly crazy women and their sweep David Maguire began to row the 1st of 7 legs for the George Bass Surfboat Marathon.
The George Bass is a 7 day surfboat marathon race that runs 180km from Batemans Bay to Eden following the original course sailed by the explorer George Bass on his voyage down the NSW coast. Organisers say it is the longest, toughest, surfboat race in the world. This year will be it’s 48th year. The legs are rowed in the open ocean and the lengths varies each day:
Day 1: Batemans Bay to Moryua 27km
Day 2: Moruya to Tuross Head 19km
Day 3: Tuross Head to Narooma 22km
Day 4: Narooma to Bermagui 24km
Day 5: Bermagui to Tathra 35km
Day 6: Tathra to Pambula 27km
Day 7: Merimbula to Eden 20km
Crews consist of 8 rowers and a sweep as well as a support boat driver and crew. 4 people row for 20-30mins while the other 4 rowers travel alongside them on the support boat. At the end of the set the crew on the support boat jump out into the water while the surfboat comes to them. And yes sthere is always a moment while you think “what if this is the one time there is a shark down there?” The answer is “don’t look down”. The 4 rowers jump out and the other 4 jump in and off they go again. That makes a deep water start sound much easier than it is, but somehow, we all end up in the boat while the others have to hang out in the ocean with the sharks, until the support can come in and pick them up.
North Steyne Men’s Vets have raced the George Bass many times before but this is only the 2nd time a women’s crew has competed for North Steyne. Long-term members Jo Cooper, Maxine Peacock-Smith, and Kate Munro were part of that first North Steyne crew with Pete Landsey sweeping. We are really grateful to North Steyne for supporting our group of Masters women to compete again in this event. We all know how valuable opportunities for older women competitors are.
The crew is racing in the Women’s Super Vets division. We are indeed “super’ because we all need to be over 45yrs to be eligible for this category. The crew is aged between 45 – 62yrs, with most in our mid-late 50s. This isn’t our first rodeo though, various members of the crew have a lot of experience with the Bass having rowed it between 5-7 times in the past with North Steyne, Avalon and Warriewood. Dave has swept crews for Long Reef, Broulee, and Avalon.
We are famously known as “that crazy crew of old women who row on fixed seats”. All the other crews choose to row on sliding seats with warm thermal pants on. Sliders are an advantage in flat conditions and are also what river rowers use. But we are hard core and believe surfboats as meant to be rowed in the surf so we row in our cossie bottoms and freezing legs. We live for rough days when the crews on sliders are bouncing around and breaking seats and we just row past flashing our frozen butts at them.
If you want to know more about the event check out this link. There is even a live tracker if you was to watch us crawl down the coast.