The Australian OffShore Challenge - one of the last great adventures
By Mike Hanlon
December 14, 2005
December 15, 2005 Bass Strait will rate on any list of the most treacherous places on earth – separating the world’s largest island (Australia) from one of the world’s largest and most pristine wilderness regions, Tasmania, it claimed its first recorded shipwreck in 1422 and has been claiming lives at an alarming rate ever since, including the infamous 1998 Sydney to Hobart Yacht race in which six souls were lost. Already it plays host to one of the world’s great boating adventures, in the form of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, it will be joined by a second great competition next year - the Australian OffShore Challenge. Run in the form of a navigational rally, the OffShore Challenge will run annually from June 2006 and enable competitors from all over the planet to bring their own boat or hire one and safely sail, much less compete on a stretch of water of such renown. Travelling Bass Strait can be very dangerous and would not normally be recommended so the event offers the unique proposition of travelling in an organised event with charts, organization, air support and the company of other boats through some of the most spectacular, dangerous and remote scenery on the planet. It begins in Hobart at Wrest Point Casino on February 22, 2006, with competitors heading south on the first morning through the D'Entrecasteaux Channel, before their first taste of open water across Storm Bay. Then it’s up the east coast of the former penal colony around Tasman Peninsula, Maria Island, Freycinet Peninsula, the Bay of Fires and on to Eddystone Lighthouse. At that point, the event enters Bass Strait, but in a series of short stages around Clarke Island, Cape Barren Island, to Flinders Island. The final part of the crossing is taken after a break , navigating a passage to the mainland state of Victoria via Deal Island, the Hogan Group, to refuel at Port Albert. Next day, the national park of Wilsons Promontory before heading west to the sheltered inlet at Inverloch, then Westernport Bay via the San Remo narrows. A final rest and preparation for the big one - through The Rip at Port Phillip Heads to Geelong. The last day is then a short sprint across the Bay to St. Kilda and then a cruise to the Docklands marina in the heart of Melbourne for the gala finish. We believe this event will become one of the great adventures on the planet as it is designed to bring small motor yachts together from all over the world for a celebration of the finest yachting has to offer in relative safety and comfort.
While the Australian Offshore Challenge is not a race, it will certainly challenge the navigational and boating skills of participants. The stages have been staggered so that whilst having to focus on the navigational task at hand, there will also be plenty of time to fully enjoy the spectacular coastal scenery. Over the course of the twelve days of competition, there will be plenty of time for recreational activities.
Competitors will travel the course via a series of waypoints and will need to maintain a steady “average speed” to avoid losing points at each checkpoint.
The event is not a fastest time race, but a true test of skills in balancing accurate navigation, seamanship in different sea conditions and boat handling.
Average speed sections will be matched to boat classes (size of vessel) and weather and sea conditions on the day.
Crews will typically compete in the rally stages in the morning and arrive at the overnight stops in time to go ashore and enjoy a bit of local hospitality, even a game of golf. For those who insist on staying on the water, there will be plenty of time to catch tomorrow’s breakfast in a fishing spot they will have never visited before.
For those of you who are wondering about how to refuel in places where there are no current refuelling facilities, remember that a feature of this event is that it allows pleasure boats to go and explore places beyond the reach of the average lone cruiser. The event organisers will have in place commercial refuelling operators to provide wharf or jetty based refuelling at strategic locations along the route. A reminder that the Offshore Challenge has special arrangements in place for entrants wishing to use the Spirit of Tasmania to transport their boats to Tasmania.
A 20% discount on cabins (other than deluxe cabins) applies if you mention the Offshore Challenge when booking and you make your booking before January 15.
SUPPORT CREWS A variety of support crew positions are available for interested people who would like to be volunteer officials for 1 to 12 days. Positions as crew members and officials will be much sought after (apply here)