On Sunday 18th March, the inaugural ‘Mad Paddle’ across Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay was held in perfect conditions, to raise funds for the Sandringham Hospital, in the pursuit of the purchase of a $25,000 portable ultrasound machine. Each paddler paid an entry fee to cover costs of support crew and permit, and were asked to raise a minimum of $250 each in donations/sponsorship. 16 solo paddlers and 26 ‘paired’ team paddlers made the epic 30km journey, which was originally intended from Indented Head on the Bellarine Peninsula, but due to persistent easterly winds, required a change of start from Frankston on the Mornington Peninsula. The paddlers were divided into groups – Two solo, and two teams, each with their own escort boat, team leader, and first-aid officer. There was also three doctors on hand. PFDs and legropes were mandatory. With he aid of the Sandringham Yacht Club, The Coast Guard, and under the watchful eye of all interested authorities, this was a huge logistical feat, with safety briefings the day before, and a webcast for those unable to attend the briefing. We all gathered at the un-godly hour of 4:30am at Sandringham to be shuttled on chartered bus to the start at Frankston, having pre-loaded all our boards and paddles the night before. After some time setting up the boards on the foreshore at Frankston, fitting fins and legropes, topping up hydration packs and loading supplies onto the luxury support vessels, we had the final pre-event briefing as the sun came up, and headed off at 7am. The conditions were perfect. A light SSE breeze of less than 5kn saw us off, with the seas a gentle bump, mostly caused by wake from the boats. The first solo group were off like rockets, and the rest of the field didn’t see much of them from about an hour into the paddle. With elite calibre of paddlers such as Camo, Wooz, PT, Hock, Lightning, there was no way anyone was going to hold back their competitive spirit. They had their own support boat, straight out of Jaws, and someone was heard to comment at the start “We’re gonna need a bigger boat”. Well they were wrong, with the turbo group stopping just 4 times and barely needing the support craft at all, these seasoned marathon paddlers knew what they were doing. They made it to Sandringham in 3hrs 20min. The rest of the field, solo group 2, and teams group 3 & 4 largely kept together, with seamless changovers occuring every 45mins-an hour. Initially it was thought that wet changeovers were required, whereby the incoming paddler would jump in the water, to be met by the outgoing paddler on the board, who would then hand over the board to the new paddler, and jump in themselves, to be picked up by the support boat. However once the scale of the boats, and the calm conditions were realised, we all managed (with the odd accidental exception!) to seamlessly paddle up to the back of the boat, step off the board, with the new paddler stepping straight onto the board and paddling off; a pit-stop worthy of the Melbourne Grand Prix about to start in the distance. For teams the paddling legs were a relaxed and social activity, with good conversation and a good pace being kept by all. On board, the off-leg paddlers relaxed on the boats with fluid stops, snacks and even a cup of coffee provided by the friendly support crews. Time flew. The journey seemed a lot shorter than it really was, with the paddling legs zipping by. For the solo paddlers, the easy pace, the safety of having others around in near proximity, and the relaxed atmosphere made it that much easier. This is not to downplay the effort required by all. For the solo paddlers it was 30-oddkm of paddling over 4-5 hours. This is no mean feat. For the teams, it was 15km or so per member, which is more than the majority of paddlers have attempted in any outing. But everyone was prepared, and everyone was supported at all levels. Soon the main pack of paddlers hit Half Moon Bay, familiar waters, with many having paddled the stretch from Half Moon to Sandringham on a regular basis. Final changovers were made, and we all waited for the tail-enders to join us as we made the final 4km thrust to the finish line. As we rounded the breakwater at Sandringham we were joined by the other paddlers from group 1, who came out to welcome us home, along with various social paddlers who had come to support the event. It was quite a sight as we all paddled into Sandringham Marine to the encouragement and congratulations of a large gathered crowd of friends, family and supporters. Beers were cracked, food was served and a party atmosphere ensued, hosted by comedian Tim Smith and Dr Feelgood. Everyone got to relax, eat, drink, and enjoy the fruits of their labour. A charity auction was held to top up the coffers. Everyone agreed, the event was a success, the organisation and safety verged on perfection, and the sun gods blessed us all with great weather. As with any event of this magnitude, there are a heap of people and organisations to thank, firstly credit to the organisers, Felicity Frederico, Kathy Naoumidis, Jonathan Cowcher, Dave Hunt, and SUP VIC.
See you all next year for some more madness?
– Tim Patterson, SUP VIC
(Photos courtesy various sources – Seabreeze, HMB Crew)
- the various authorities that we had the support from: The Coast Guard, Parks Vic, Port of Melbourne Authority and The Regional Channel Authority.
- The novice celebrity paddlers that took time out of their busy schedules to paddle in with us: Tammy Van Wisse, The Hon. Federal MP Andrew Robb, State MP Elizabeth Miller and Sally Cockburn (Dr Feelgood). Under the guidance of Rob Wong, they had a lesson at 10.30am and were able to escort the 46 registered paddlers in at midday to a crowd of a couple of hundred at the Sandringham Yacht Club.
- The 4 escort boats
- Bill Stubbs – Recreational Boating Captain SYC
- Arthur Nauomidis – SYC
- The Coast Guard
- David Boxshall – who provided his boat and fuel, on behalf of his charity Variety Club for Children.
- Without these escort vessels the event would not have happened. Obtaining escort vessels will continue to be the greatest challenge in holding this event. These boats all contributed their time and fuel towards to the cause.
- Bruce Thompson who managed the registrations and communication.
- Skybus for providing the courtesy bus to the start for all paddlers.
- Comedian Tim Smith for being MC at the after party.
- We had a great medical team:
- Dr James Taylor (Director of the Emergency Department at the Sandringham Hospital)
- Dr Kathryn Taylor
- Dr Chris Ball (anaesthetist)
To all the Mad Paddlers, thanks for a great day. Thanks to the 4 escort vessels – without whom we would have had no event. Thanks to the Team Leaders: DJ, Big Wave Dave, Jonathan and Paul. In particular thanks for staying in the groups and making it a safe and successful paddle. We have now earnt the respect of the various authorities and will be able to run SUPVic Mad Paddle on an annual basis. We are close to reaching the $25,000 donation for the Sandringham Hospital. Thanks once again for your incredible high level of support and patience both before and during the actual paddle. We had an absolute ball and can’t wait for next year. Well done and thanks to SUPVic for giving us the faith and encouragement to run the event. Finally this event would not have happened without the powerhouse of Kathy and her organisational skills. – Felicity FredericoLast word from one of the team leaders, Jonathan: