by Ralph Newton
With 'What a bloody great day to go sailing……' blaring out over our stereo on board, six good friends set off for the adventure of a lifetime: the Race and Rally from Fremantle to Bali, and then 'Beyond Bali', and later 'The Kimberley Odyssey'.
Our sail trimmer, Adrian Williams from Gosford Sailing Club contributed his copy of The Wolverines singing this catchy tune (with extremely simple words, which suited our very simple tastes!), and with this background noise we crossed the start line of the 2013 Wonderful Indonesia Fremantle to Bali Race and rally on May 4th this year, together with 32 other yachts, of which four others were catamarans.
For the first time ever, we attracted five cats to this Race and Rally, of which three were Seawind 1160’s.
I was Rally Director for this event and had been planning the route for the past 18 months, since we last cruised through Indonesia in 2011. Based on our earlier experiences of this beautiful and friendly, and safe, cruising destination, I submitted a comprehensive itinerary to the Committee, and after numerous tweaking of the route, the timing, etc etc, and several presentations at the major West Australian yacht clubs, we had over 60 ‘Expressions of Interest’, but as time went by, the tyre kickers faded away, and only the serious contenders were left. Our organising club, Fremantle Sailing Club, has run this event eight times previously, so, lots of knowledge and advice was available to the novices.
The Indonesian Government’s Ministry of Tourism and the Creative Economy were the major sponsors, and they helped us at every point, organising Visas and the all-important CAIT (Cruising Authority for Indonesian Territory).
We arranged for the best weather forecaster for miles around, Mr Bruce Buckley 'The Weatherman' to provide daily weather updates to the fleet. (Bruce is the official Australian Olympic Sailing Team’s weatherman) With a great deal of excitement and anxiety we sat down to Bruce’s first briefing forecast only to be told that two major weather systems were predicted to collide just 48 hours after departure, and they would affect the fleet some 300 to 400 nautical miles north of Fremantle.
Fortunately we had entered this event as a ‘Rally’ yacht and so were allowed to use our engine(s), and therefore the sensible decision was made by skipper and relief skipper, Kim Klaka, to immediately use our ‘iron headsails’ to get as far north as possible, and try to beat the storm. Pity those poor slow ‘Race’ yachts who had to endure calm to light conditions for the first 24 hours, and as a result, got caught in the 50 to 60k storm on the most unforgiving coastline almost anywhere in the world: between Geraldton and Dirk Hartog Island.
We made very good progress and ducked into the Shark Bay area about 36 hours after starting, and then continued north in sheltered waters, until the far northern point of Shark Bay, at Bernier Island. We had been told by a local fisherman of a cosy cove to ‘hole-up’ in, and took the opportunity to anchor in Hospital Bay for 38 hours. With two anchors down, and only 30 knots blowing over us, we felt very sorry for several yachts who were forced to stay out to sea as they recorded winds of 58 knots.
Anxious to leave the comfort zone after about 30 hours, we radioed another yacht passing further out to sea. They responded and said: 'Stay where you are, as we are really battling huge seas out here, and a cross swell of over seven metres would not be too comfortable!' We took their advice!
Finally underway again, the conditions moderated and we enjoyed a comfortable sail all the way to Bali, with only some mild excitement during two nights with severe electrical storms around us. No matter how we attempted to duck these storms as we read them on our Raymarine C120 chart-plotter, the storm always moved into our path to drench us with torrential rain, and scare the living daylights out of us with lightning cracking all around us.
After 11 days at sea, we finally came in view of Bali. We then had to negotiate southerly currents up to four knots, and did this by hugging the reefs just offshore from all those 5-Star hotels, so close as to give some of my crew the shivers. Especially when a big swell would suddenly emerge from nowhere with a surfer already attached to it!
The welcome in Benoa Harbour, Bali was fabulous. Fremantle Sailing Club had sponsored our ‘Pipes and Drums' band to fly up to Bali for the welcoming of each yacht, and to perform at various social occasions in Bali. I can assure you that they were a sensation: can you imagine what a full band of bagpipes and lots of drummers would sound like in the steamy atmosphere of Bali? Our Drum Major, Stuart Bradford caused a sensation when he accompanied one of the best Rock Bands in Bali and played the Aussie favourite 'It’s a Long Way to the Top when you want to Rock’n’Roll'.
I am delighted to say that our wonderful Seawind 1160 'Yandanooka' won the overall Rally Trophy, and our two nominated navigators, Dr Rob Hills and Stuart Norman, using good ol’ celestial navigation, won the coveted Navigators Trophy. Our Communications Officer, Peter Blaxell also was acknowledged with a piece of jewellery that made his wife very happy for his enormous contribution as Radio Relay Vessel from Start to Finish of this event.
Of special interest to catamaran owners: all Seawind 1160’s ('Yandanooka', 'Tinga Tinga' and 'Cat-o-Mine'), plus a Fontaine Pajot Lipari, and a 40’ Perry cat, all made the journey to Bali without any damage, and all of these multi-hulls continued on in the Rally fleet to be part of the 'Beyond Bali Rally' fleet. But, more of the next adventure (Beyond Bali and The Kimberley Odyssey in the next newsletters)
Oh, and finally, our merry crew of six had great fun performing the Wolverines song 'What a Bloody Great Day to Go Sailing' with special words added to give some real flavour, at the Sanur Beach Gala Presentation Dinner, in front of the Indonesian Minister of Tourism and the West Australian Minister of Tourism!
The next Freo to Bali Race and Rally will be held in May 2015, so get your diaries out and plan to join in the best cruise you’ll ever have!
More details on the rally including photos can be found at http://fremantlebali.com.au/