Everything you need to know!

Sunday 1 January ~ Saturday 7 January 2023

View the area on Google Earth

What You Need To Know about the George Bass Marathon....

Rules & Conditions:
Once you enter, our Rules & Conditions will be sent to you with the Event Information. In over 45 years we have hardly had a blimp as far as trouble goes and that’s a credit to every crew who has competed in this race. The reason we post these rules is so we all know what’s expected of us before we start, then we don’t have to mention them again. It’s all pretty common sense stuff, so read it and then tuck the information away. The requirement for every member of the team to be on the association entry form is to do with insurance.

The really important rule you will note has been left unsaid and refers to the actual racing. In the words of one of the races founding fathers, Nick Dixon, “the great thing about the rules of marathon racing is that there are no rules”. It’s a big ocean out there and you will have to do something pretty silly to bring the officials down on you. The other thing to note about the GBM is that the officials will work with you to present a happy race. You will have the opportunity to meet with the Race Referee at the completion of each day’s racing where each team has the perfect opportunity to ask questions and be part of any decisions for the next day’s racing. These team briefings include your powerboat backup support driver, so everyone is involved in presenting a great event.

What you need to know

What’s this race really about?
Over the 40+ Bass years we have had competitors representing around 100 surf clubs from every State in Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain & Wales. In the early races some crews entered with only 4 rowers and completed the whole course. The great vet’s crew from Wollongong City typifies the spirit of what this race has been built on. During a race in the eighties one of their members was too crook to row a leg so the remaining 3 rowed the leg themselves. During a recent Bass the ladies crew from Parigian Surf Club, found themselves down several rowers with hyperthermia etc when the fleet ran into a horrific southerly blow on the longest (35Km) leg. Race officials tried to convince the remaining rowers to pull out but in a show of total determination the girls said “we came here to row the course and by hell that’s what we are going to do”. The girls were on the water with no back up for 6 hours and finished the race to a wonderful reception from several thousand spectators who had stayed to cheer them home. Without exception every crew that has ever rowed this race goes away saying that it has been a fantastic week. You will make Bass friends for life, because we all camp together, race hard and play together.

Of course we have winners and the race records can be seen elsewhere on the web site, but what we really have are competitors that become part of the Bass family. You will do many things in your life but none more challenging or rewarding than rowing a George Bass Surfboat Marathon. One of the real points of difference between this event and a sprint series is that in a sprint series you either win or you’re eliminated. In the George Bass Marathon every day is a new race and secondary competition develops within the race. It doesn’t really matter if you’re at the front, middle or rear, you will be racing a group of crews that are at your speed and some of the best tussles can be seen between crews racing to finish 18, 19 or 20.

Another important aspect is the public support. You can expect holiday crowds in the thousands to meet you at the completion of each day’s racing. We have massive media exposure through coastal radio, print plus National TV. We will again have TV cameramen with us on the race filming each day’s racing for prime airtime in the National nightly news bulletin.

To sum up, the GBM is an adventure, it’s hard, it’s rewarding and something every boat rower needs to have on their CV.

What you need to know

What can you expect from the racing?
The speed at the front of the fleet has to be seen to be believed. It’s not uncommon to have 2 or 3 crews absolutely driving to the finish line to be separated by only seconds or half a boat length from 1st to 3rd after 2.5 hours racing. You will encounter every kind of racing condition over the week. You will get to push into a chop, row broadside to the chop as well as run in front of the trailing wind and swell, all the time while racing the crews around you.

In the beginning some crew legends were made on the back of certain crew members rowing the whole leg or even the whole race without a change. As the race has developed so to has the speed of the boats on the back of crew preparation. During the 70’s it wasn’t unusual for crews to row a leg and crew change only once or twice. The race is now so much faster that individual rowers are sitting in the seat for 20 to 30 minutes maximum before a change is called. Race ratings vary from crew to crew but it is pretty common for ratings to sit at or above 30 per minute the whole way.

How is the race run?
For those that have never experienced the “Great Race” here is a brief overview of what you should expect. Future newsletters can go further into the actual race and tactics but this should give some insight into what you’re in for.

The start every day is in deep water between markers at the back of the surf. Under no conditions do we race off a beach. Remember you will have sliding seats fitted and the straight line start will set you on a course directly down the coast.

During the race the ocean is your oyster. You may steer whatever course you wish and many crews do just that. Some stay close to shore while others can be found kilometers out to sea. One of the classic ocean racing quotes was made during the 1981 marathon when a cagey old sweep of the young Corrimal crew was heard to yell at the crew from Moruya “move over Moruya and let us through”. Remember these crews were racing kilometers out to sea with nothing but ocean all around.

The finish will always be fair and square to the racing course between markers beyond the break. You will never be asked to complete a race in through the surf. This is a rowing race not a race of chance and the last thing we want to do is place tired crews at risk by asking then to crack waves at the end of a marathon under race conditions.

Crew changes are entirely your call. Many races have been won and lost by the timing of that call, both in terms of the stage of the race and how long it takes to complete the change. Remember you will need a powerboat as back up. Your extra crew rowers start the race in that powerboat and you may change your crew around as many times as you wish during the course of each day’s racing.

What you need to know

How long does each race take and what happens for the balance of the day?
The George Bass Marathon - an experience of a lifetimeThe scheduled start time for each day except Day 1 is 9 am. Day 1 may differ slightly but this will be advised well in advance.

You will wake about 6 am and start the preparation with meals, strapping, team meetings etc. You are usually no more that 30 minutes max from the start location. You can row to the start line off the beach or through a river mouth it’s your call. See race records, but you will normally be off the beach around midday and heading back to camp. The crew’s highest priority at that time is food and sleep in that order. It’s not unusual to see a game of camp cricket at some stage during the afternoon and you can most certainly see a few cold ones being put to good use by the camp backup crew. The afternoon is a good time to explore the town you’re in if that’s your thing. You usually see the rowers doing what they do second best and that’s eating again around 6 pm and except for the camp party animals, lights are out reasonably early due to tiredness. Next day you do it all over again.

Remember we camp at school grounds, council parks etc, and so all crews become part of a big traveling circus.

What should I do now?
Very simple, print off the Entry Form, fill it out and send it in. This way you have been registered and will be part of our thinking as we develop the program. You have until the end of August to finally confirm and pay your entry, but as crews enter and pay the entry fee we lock them in as confirmed for a starting place. Remember we are aiming at a total number of around 35 crews at this stage a mix of men’s and women’s crews. Our enquiry rate has been very solid, so by sending in your entry you will be placed on the list and only moved backward by crews who pay the entry fee.

Many crews will have specific questions that we are happy to answer but it would be good if we were answering questions from crews who had an entry form in place. You can email questions to the address in the contacts list on the Web site.

Race Director


Log in