by John Curnow
It was easy to think of sunny, warm climes with gentle breezes, benign waves and tranquil anchorages. At the inaugural Lagoon Escapade, Melbourne had provided you with the perfect contrast medium to conjure up such pleasant thoughts. Not that it was an unpleasant affair, far from it as it turns out, but for the preceding 24 hours one had been seeing peaks of 40 knots, significant waves and rain squalls with real bite.
Allegra II passes Arthurs Seat as she runs back down to the finish. - 2013 Lagoon Escapade
The purpose of this gathering of catamarans at Martha Cove on the shores of Port Phillip, about 25nm South of Melbourne, was to allow the owners the perfect opportunity to utilise their craft for their intended purpose. This is namely to provide both excellent accommodation and memorable enjoyment for owners and guests alike.
Hiding from the wind in the crisp late morning, the toasted ham and cheese croissants and fresh coffees warmed the tummy wonderfully, as the sun then did its best to drag the temperature into the mid-teens. Race Briefing was at 1100hrs where the sailing instructions and course were detailed to all. As the adage goes, herding cats is theoretically possible, but in practice proves to be a little more difficult. With that in mind, Vicsail had done a wonderful job to herd four of the 14 Lagoons that call Melbourne home into the one place at the one time. There have been 100 delivered by Vicsail now, so that promises to be one very large logistical campaign to consider down the road.
Peter and Cath Murphy’s Lagoon 500 had come down from Williamstown the day before in the strong Nor’wester. Just as there had been one Lagoon at the recent Vicsail Pittwater Beneteau Cup, there was one Beneteau attending the Lagoon Escapade and they had ventured over from Geelong on the other side of Port Phillip.
Venturing out to the vessels, it was clear that everyone was in high spirits, even though the sun was fighting to do anything but make for pretty pictures. Waypoints were placed in to chartplotters, however in a sign that it clearly was going to be about first around the course and back to the bar, three vessels dug into for’ard lockers and out came the screachers (gennakers). For some, this was an opportunity to use ‘the big sail’ in anger and it was a delight to see crews go through the process of ensuring all the running rigging had been set correctly.
Brendan Hunt said of the day, 'As the importer of Lagoons, to be involved in an event like this and incorporate all the local aspects that we can, really is something remarkable. That this is our first makes us feel totally over the moon. We expect it to double and then double again in size. It seems to have been received with great gusto, too. It has been simply great to see people utilising their boats, going to another level and learning new skills, too. Smiles and giggles on top is a real bonus.'
A trapezoid course out towards the Hovell Light and back of about 9.5nm would provide the opportunity for some upwind, reaching and running legs. Conditions were varying enough to test the skills of the dedicated sailors on board as they helped their less experienced owners master lifts and knocks. The start was a self-regulated affair to help with Gem getting away closest to the 1230hrs ‘gun’.
The perfect South to Sou’west of 15 to 20 knots suited these craft, but none more so than the largest, Allegra II, who tore up the first work, often out-pointing everyone and using her waterline length to keep the momentum going. Along the way, it was not hard to remember the adage that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. Extra jackets, beanies, blankets and neck warmers appeared on the crews as effortlessly as the Lagoons making passage in the flat water. It was during the voyage too that it became terribly evident that what may have started as a saunter, was ultimately all about racing.
By the top mark Allegra II had hauled in Gem (Lagoon 400), with SKI (Lagoon 400) and Nanoq (Lagoon 380) much further behind and having started several minutes after the others, in a completely different breeze and pointing much further West, well North of the mark. Not to worry, for these two craft would reach across to the beach near McCrae at warp speed and then bring down a new, more Southerly breeze with them as they ‘fought’ it out all the way to the finish line. Allegra II romped it in to get Line Honours in pretty much the expected time of one and half hours. Now even though her elapsed time was something like 25 minutes better than her nearest rival, on handicap it was to be Nanoq who got the chocolates.
Brett Lane and Kent Mill’s Lagoon 380 had the Lagoon mascot on board. Their sensationally happy and playful Groodle certainly did prove to be a lucky charm for them. Brett and Kent previously had a Beneteau Oceanis. Cheryl Stanton from Vicsail said after their win, 'I was fortunate enough to sail with Kent and Brett who are such great Lagoon owners. Despite a minor complication at the start of the race, determination and a little luck pushed us from being the last across the start line to reigning as the first Lagoon Escapade Champions on handicap. That's what the day was all about - an indefinable spirit that comes being onboard a Lagoon. We look forward to many more Escapades around Australia.'
Allegra II would be a delighted second place recipient, with Rod and Janet Cooper’s Gem in third and then Peter and Pat Pulpett’s SKI in fourth. All received a bottle of local Mornington Peninsula sparkling wine to commemorate a job well done.
As with all Vicsail events, the Catering Officer had been working up a storm to match the one Melbourne had endured the night before. The mixed grill and arrangement of salads was devoured by the hungry sailors and those old enough also ensured their elbows were kept in motion, whilst they consumed a range of local and imported wines.
Soon enough it was time to vacate the building, but the escapade was set to continue on back at the boats. Armfuls of prizes and extra ‘stock’ not used during the day were on hand to assist. As a first, the smiles and happiness ensure there will be more Lagoon Escapades around Australia for their owners to partake in. Experiencing owners and guests enjoy these homely craft in they way they should be will also go a long way to having more boats at more events in the future. One thing that guarantees that and much more is seeing people like Cath Murphy embrace the serenity of sailing.
Go to vicsail.com to make contact with any of the Vicsail offices, including John Garner at Vicsail Geelong and Filippo Cianmicino at Vicsail Docklands and talk all things Lagoon. You’ll see why cats are now the choice of many an owner and that Lagoons are not part of any ordinary herd.