The years of preparation since the original concept came to the notice of Club officials, following the continued success of the British 3 Peaks race, were rewarded when the final yacht entered Sydney Harbour at the end of the inaugural MMI 3 Ports Circuit.
The event, which certainly was a challenge for organisers (not to mention the competitors), had remarkably gone off without a serious problem, testimony to the army of voluntary workers who assisted in the staging of each leg (land and sea) of the course.
With the exception of some "quiet time" in regard to the wind on the Saturday night around midnight, the weekend was blessed with ideal weather and actually contributed to the completion of the event some 12 hours before expected.
From the outset, the most amazing expose to the un-initiated yachtsmen was the sheer speed with which the runners complete the road sections of the course. In fact, in the opening "dash", the first runner completed the course from MHYC to the Opera House in just 31 minutes, with the majority of the teams of runners finishing in the next five minutes.
Wary of the possibility of lack of breeze at that hour of the morning (the runners left MHYC at 8am) a facility existed in the race instructions to move the gate from which the yachts would start sailing. The race Committee utilized this facility and took the fleet to Watsons Bay where the north easterly filled in, as if on cue, as they arrived with the first yacht. Then it was off to Pittwater in a steadily building breeze, giving the runners their first taste of ocean racing.
The first running leg had got through the early morning traffic with the assistance of the Police Traffic Branch who closed off Parriwi Road for the start and then halted traffic in Spit Junction allowing the groups of athletes to pass through the area in complete safety.
After that they made their way down through the back streets of Cremorne and Neutral Bay with drink stations at various points along the way where cold water and Staminade awaited them to re-hydrate their bodies.
Arrival in Pittwater and The Basin created a little confusion as some of the bigger boats showed concern at the depth of water near the landing wharf where they would dis-embark their runners for the climb and run around West Head and return. After this minor hiccup was overcome with the assistance of Color 7, who had preceded the fleet to Pittwater.
It was Jim Golledge, aboard the King 50, OTELLA (owned by MHYC member, Colin Montgomery) who again recorded the fastest time for the running/climbing leg. Colledge thus kept OTELLA in touch with Barclay Wade's APOCALYPSE who had established a slender lead in the sailing leg. lt was interesting to note the closeness of the times of the leading runners with Golledge completing the course just 3 seconds faster than the pair aboard APOCALYPSE, who had run in tandem. One of them being the controversial woman marathon runner, Tani Ruckle, who was sensationally disqualified and then re-instated in the Westfield marathon earlier this year.
The 70 mile ocean race to Port Kembla gave the runners another sensation as the day turned into night and the wind strength began to diminish making for those sloppy conditions we all "love", and the greatest contributor to sea-sickness known.
And whilst the competitors (16 yachts took part in the final count with somewhere near 51 different runners competing in one or more of the three land legs) concentrated on getting to Port Kembla by the fastest route possible, organisers had the task of moving their team to the southern township aided by two commuter vans kindly supplied by Bill Buckle Toyota at Brookvale for the event.
Not to be denied their enjoyment from the race, it was off to the local Chinese restaurant for a meal whilst two of their number stood by at the Port Kembla wharf just in case the first boat managed to outdistance Color 7 on the way down the coast from Pittwater. Then to what some described as Port Kembla's "Fawlty Towers" for a rest before the 4.30am early morning call to man the checkpoints for the land leg to Mount Kembla and return.
'Meanwhile, back at the Port Kembla wharf, Color 7 had arrived and so had local TV station cameramen from WIN 4, anxious to record the colour of the night arrival of the yachts. The subsequent arrival of the leaders saw the dock area lit up like a Christmas Tree by the strong TV lights resembling something akin to the finish of a Hobart race in constitution Dock.
The rope ladders (which had to be made by organisers prior to the race as there didn't seem to be a supplier anywhere in Sydney) provided some comic relief as the silver rope showed some stretch as the Committee boat gave them the first test. Then they got some more work as anxious runners were quick to make an escape to solid ground after their new found experience in an ocean racer.
Master of ceremonies, "Munno", took over the entertainment department on the Port Kembla wharf asthe fleet filtered in - first Apocalypse, then Otella, thenan amazing site as the King 40 footer, TOCATTA displayed a result which could have had something to do with owner, Kanga Birtles, local knowledge of the area being South Coast boy from way back.
Organisers wisely had decided to delay the Port Kembla running leg until daybreak should the yachts arrive during the hours of darkness and it was tentatively set for 5.30am the next morning - a mass start for those runners from boats which had arrived in Port Kembla by that time. As it turned out, all but three of the fleet completed their task and 26 runners took off on the 30 kilometre run to Mount Kembla and back, the longest and most testing of the three running legs of the race.
And this leg was to prove the most sensational of all when firstly Tani Ruckle fighting for second spot in the race missed the turning back into the Port Kembla wharf, taking two other competitors on the wrong course with her. A distressed trio found the Port Kembla Police Station where helpful officers directed them back to the right road. In the process the three had lost some time and a couple of places to boot.
Secondly, one of the Army runners competing on the Newcastle entry, ALI BABA, collapsed when just three kilometres from the finish, having to be revived by his partner. A quick trip to the local hospital, a diagnosis of de-hydration (despite the many drink stations along the way), an overnight stay in the hospital and he was pronounced as satisfactory. But certainly a scare for organisers, not used to this sort of occurrence, and a lesson for the future races.
APOCALYPSE was to lead the fleet back through Sydney Heads on Sunday afternoon taking just over 30 hours to complete the three running and three sailing legs which made up the challenging inaugural MMI 3Ports Circuit. Not far behind was OTELLA who had to stage a gallant fight to not only overhaul the leader but make up for the time adjustment from the previous sailing leg. After this time was adjusted the margin was 36 minutes. Third in came TOCATTA, giving it victory in its division.
Division winners included Apocalypse and Tocatta, Peter Wheeler's GROUP THERAPY, the usually short-handed sailor Malcolm Jack in AUSSIE SPIRIT, Peter Nicholson's SEAQUESTA, re-named OCCIDENTAL LIFE for the race by his sponsor, and David Lee's Farr 1020, BITTER END.
For the winners, keeping the philosophy of MHYC's recognition of the crew contribution, all members of each division winning boat received a special embroidered Bonds Grand Slam T-shirt showing their victory.
The post mortem celebration, after the race, saw each winning yacht presented with their spoils, a special present to the two lady runners who took on the torturous Mt. Kembla leg, champagne to help celebrate the occasion, and following speeches by Purdey Murn from MMI and Commodore, Ken White, a well-received gesture by the race sponsors - a FREE bar for the next hour and a half.
Most gratifying to organisers was the high praise from the running fraternity who took part in this, the Club's inaugural venture into this foreign field. Praise for the manner in which drink stations were situated and, surprisingly suggesting a tougher course for next year.
Main reason for this comment it would seem, was that the majority of runners who took part were within the top 100 in the State and their enthusiasm suggested that ever more would be along in 1988. Truth of the matter is, the "average" runners wanted at least one orienteering type leg to ensure they managed to get a berth on one of the boats.
From the conversations which were forthcoming after the race, greatest apathy amongst yacht owners was the tear of being unable to attract two or more runners for their crews. Ironically, in 1988, it seems the opposite may be the norm, with a surplus of runners looking for yachts. The event has, since its staging, created a great deal of interest within the running community, some going as tar to suggest that it would become more important than the City to Surf in their eyes.
The sponsors, for their part, were more than happy and "look forward to a continuing association with MHYC...." wishing to reiterate our commitment to be involved again in sponsorship of the 3 Ports Race (in 1988)".
One thing is for certain, with the limit of 50 entries again to be enforced there may be a scramble around the beginning of September to get hold of an entry form to compete in this exciting and fun-filled challenge that is MMI
Finally, not withstanding all the preparatory work which preceded the weekend, the event could not have been as successful as it was (especially considering the venturing into such an unknown dimension as road running) had it not been for the un-selfish commitment of the army of voluntary officials and helpers who manned Color 7 for the weekend and the checkpoints in Sydney, Pittwater and Port Kembla. Special thanks to Hugh Wheeler, Bob Thorsby and lan Alfonso, Charlie Herbert and Peter Ziems on Color 7; John & Pat Skalla, Alan Sweeney; Steve Perks, Ross Adams, Marian Packer, Escu Davies, Karin Ovari, Frank & Jean Likely in the control vehicles; Terry Fitzgerald and George Canfield in the tenders; Andy & Jenny Brennan and their yacht crew at Pittwater; Geoff & Peggy Foster, Keith & Judy Tierney, Alan Patterson, Anton Hawkins, Harry & Val Packer, David Hocking, Ross Munn, Ken & Pauline Mascord, Tony Hill & Frank Martin.