Since it’s inception the Hydro-Derby has been rooted in the spirit and culture of Pittwater. This is a pleasant afternoon mucking about on boats, with high range alcohol abuse and dark overtones of cut throat competitiveness mixed in with equal measure. All epic battles have their hallowed turf, center court at Wimbledon, the MCG, Yankee Stadium… for Hydro-Derby it is the Pittwater Hydro-Arena.
Located fifty minutes drive north of the Sydney CBD, this massive center court is arguably the worlds greatest fishing and drinking Colosseum. More than 5,000m from tip to tail and well over 2,500m wide, it comprises three major theaters of engagement, Upper Pittwater, Coasters Retreat and Careel Bay. Each have their own unique characteristics, dominant species and required techniques. We covered off the piscatorial adversaries you can expect to encounter with THIS EARLIER GUIDE, so we’ll now focus on the navigational and tactical nuances teams will face.
The Official Starting Pentagon is located directly to the west of the Barrenjoey Boat Hire marina. Skippers will need to hold their Hydro-Vessel on station in this area until the sounding of the starting air-horn, signifying the opening of the Official Competitive Window. But where to next? As the teams around you gun their engines and make for the horizon you’d be well advised to have a clear team strategy in place! Here are some dimensions to consider when crafting your Hydro-Arena Strategy:
- Do you want to play man on man defence, or take a flyer and go it alone… following the other boats can be tempting, you can monitor their catch and consumption rates against your own, but you’ll be fishing the same waters and if fishing skill isn’t your team forte you may come up wanting.
- Are you fishing for quality or quantity? Many teams look to up their catch and species counts by playing the moorings for smaller game, whilst others will head to the sand flats hunting giant flathead hoping a couple of whales will stand them in good stead…
- How will the tide and wind affect your progress? Navigating chronically under-powered vessels around a large expanse of water takes some planning, or you’ll end up spending an hour trying to punch into the chop from an outgoing tide against a 25knot Nor’Easter to make it back for the 5pm cut off. Plan a route to keep your lines in the water and the cans flowing!
- When will you satisfy Article 1.7.4 of the Sailing Instructions by navigating your vessel west of the line between Coasters Retreat and Bonnie Doon ferry wharves. Time it wrong and you’ve earned your team at least 5,000m of commuting back and forth, get it right and you’ll be laughing as you haul in the Leather Jackets.
If the Hydro-Arena is the hallowed turf of the Hydro Derby then Coasters Retreat is the home team change room after a Grand Final victory. It’s crowded, there’s all sorts of weird parties going on and it smells just a little funny at times. To prevent James Packer’s attempt to dominate Hydro-Derby with the Arctic-P Article 1.7.4 states that during the Competitive Window all vessels must navigate to the west of the Coasters Retreat warf, WITHIN the area highlighted in the above graphic – so everyone will be here during their Hydro-Derby campaign.
Teams may also wish to take advantage of the mobile ice cream vendor as per The Rod Wrestlers now classic efforts in 2009, and should watch for the predominance of electric rays which can prove a shocking experience to deal with in a small tinnie. It’s also not uncommon for several teams to find themselves engaged in vessel to vessel combat in this highly compressed environment.
This is the deep south… filled with mythical giant flathead and all manner of voodoo. The Stepford’s waded deeper into this corner of the Hydro-Arena and came out champions in 2011, though several teams have also invested hours making the crossing only to be lost among the moorings and rewarded with a 5,000m slog back to the finish…
As you can see the Hydro-Arena is a complex beast. It must be approached with a clear strategy and a good deal of fortitude, or you’ll find yourself hanging round the Palm Beach Mile Mark with little more than a starfish and some sunstroke to your name. Good luck!