Marmaris Race - 2009

Marmaris Race Rating

Overall rating: Natives:
Weather: Social scene:
Racing quality: Cost:
Sailing conditions: Exotic Locale:

Escaped Aussies Report on Marmaris Race Week

“Prro-test, Prro-test!”, was the most common words heard on the racecourse during the week of the 2009 Marmaris Regatta. The words delivered with a strong Russian accent were an indication of the large Russian presence at Turkey’s premier sailing event.

The Escaped Aussies continued their quest to complete all the world’s best regattas by attending the 2009 Marmaris Race week in late October, early November 2009.

Marmaris is popular tourist town, located in southwest Turkey, in the Mugla Province. It was once a sleepy fishing village that was transformed during the 1980’s into a tourism haven. The town's population is 28,660 but reaches 300,000 - 400,000 people during the tourism season, when the flow of people reaches critical levels.

The busy harbor area in Marmaris is a major centre for sailing and boating with heavy ferry traffic to nearby Rhodes in Greece and other Greek and Turkish destinations. The marina facilities are large and have all the modern amenities that one would find in the best marinas anywhere in the world. It is a popular destination for parking Mediterranean based boats during the winter.

The harbor area is tightly packed with restaurants, nightclubs and bars giving multiple options for entertainment with competition for business turning proprietors into aggressive street-side salesmen.

The Marmaris Race Week is fortunately at the start of the low season in November when the town is relatively quiet and the regatta itself the biggest thing in town.

The regatta has up to 130 boats participate with crews from Russia, Turkey, Germany, UK, USA, Australia and Greece the most prevalent, with Russia and Turkey leading the numbers.

Serious racing crews are few and far between with most of the boats chartered from the huge stocks of charter boats moored in Marmaris marinas generally used for cruising during the peak season.

The very picturesque but tight harbor area combined with some inexperienced crews made for very interesting racing. In some cases the lack of knowledge of the rules and language issues in communication in made for dangerous conditions at times. It was not unusual to see a bottle of vodka or a beer in the hand of some of the other crews on their way out to the start line, which probably added to the danger.

The amount of carnage at the end of the regatta was something equivalent to what you would see at the end of a Sydney to Hobart race, but here, the wind rarely got above 8 knots! In one instance, the Escaped Aussies were in a start where four boats t-boned the committees start boat, all at the same time, because the boats closest to the start line refused to go up over the line when called up.

Fortunately, over the course of the week, there were only one or two crew injuries, with one person being taken to hospital with a broken arm. The marinas looked like a parking lot for a post demolition derby with holes in hulls and broken rigging supplying plenty of business for the chandlers as the sailing season tapered off for the winter.

The protest board at the end of the day was always full, but many were never ruled on because they were largely in-admissible. A strong indication that the rules were not understood.

The irony of this regatta is that it is well organized and very professionally run in all on-shore and off-shore aspects. The organized parties have great food, music and are set in nice locations. The race courses are challenging and fun, and the race committee handled the difficult conditions of light and shifty winds relatively well. The majority of crews however are arguably not as professional or respectful.

The Escaped Aussies though did find many positives about this regatta. The weather was a very enjoyable 22 degrees C (75 degrees F) all night and all day. The skies were mostly clear and spectacular at night under a full moon and full suite of stars. The Escaped Aussies were so inspired one night they loaded the boat with snacks and drinks, and joined by some friendly locals, toured the harbor from midnight until 3am.

There is a long race mid-week which, because of the light winds, becomes an overnight race. This has been the case for the last 3 years. The race is a coastal race around a small island at the half way point. This year’s race was sailed under clear skies and a full moon finishing at 7am in the morning, having started at 11am the previous day. It was the most fun race of the week with many navigational and tactical challenges sailed in very light and shifty winds. The winds built to 15knots providing a fast and very pleasant finish just after sunrise.

Because of the late finish, racing that day was cancelled. Most crews go home and catch up on lost sleep. Some go for a recreational sail in the afternoon, as the Escaped Aussies did, anchoring in one of the many attractive bays around the harbor for a late lunch and swim. 

The cost of the regatta is attractive. You can charter a boat for about half what you can charter a boat for in other parts of Europe. The boats and support is high quality. Costs on shore for transport, food, drink and entertainment make this one of the more cost effective regattas.

There is not a lot of sightseeing local to Marmaris but Istanbuhl and other interesting locations, like Rhodes, are nearby. If given the chance again, the Escaped Aussies would take a few extra days and complete the half day sail over to Rhodes for a few days at the end of the regatta.

The regattas short comings are that it is not easily to assimilate with other crews because of language and cultural issues. The social groups at parties are often fragmented making it difficult to really immerse into the event. The racing is a little unusual and at times unnecessarily dangerous with a large number of bareboat charterers that do not know or fully respect the rules.

The light winds of this regatta which seem to prevail given the same conditions have been there over the last few years, mean this regatta is a light and small boat regatta.

The Escaped Aussies scores this regatta an overall 2.8 out of 5.

The individual category scores are shown as below:

For more information or photos email Darren Shipard at dshipard@aol.com