Australia Day Picnic 2018

28 January 2018 / Words by Bryan Shedden, Photos by Rob Wilkins

Australia Day 2018 was celebrated in traditional true-blue MX-5 Club style with a picnic and games at Cordeaux Dam. Individual runs for Illawarra Chapter, RPM Chapter and Sydney Chapter converged on the picnic grounds at 10am opening time, while many other people made their own way there. The total attendance of 76 people was made up of 26 from RPM Chapter, 25 from Illawarra Chapter, 22 from Sydney Chapter, 1 from Canberra Chapter and 2 visitors. Cordeaux Dam was a bit too far for Canberra, Hunter and Mid North Coast Chapter members to get to for a day trip - the tyranny of distance. This event is a great way to start the year by catching up from clubmates beyond our usual circle.

In past years of this annual event, the weather has been atypically cool and overcast. Not this year! For much of the day, we had bright sunshine, top of 30C and high humidity. It was a hot one!


Paul Byers set up a pair of Hot Wheels racetracks for the kids (and the not-so-young) to play with. Young Evan declared that the fastest of the four MX-5 models on offer was the yellow ND - if only Mazda would make a full-size one in this colour. This was the first of four fun games organised for the day.

At 11:30, we commenced the inaugural MX-5 Packing Challenge. Competitors in this game had to fit a selection of specific luggage items into the boot of their MX-5 in the fastest time possible. The items included everything an adventurous couple needs for a weekend camping trip in their MX-5: one large softbag of clothing for her, a spare pair of undies for him (enough for eight days if you know how), a tent, double air mattress, air pump, 2 sleeping bags, 2 inflatable pillows, 2 camp chairs, fold-up table, lantern, fishing rod, and tennis racquets. No food or cooking items were included, because any self-respecting MX-5 owner would eat at the nearest cafe or pub. A 5 second time penalty would be applied if anything needed to be packed behind the seats. All of it was transported in the boot of my NC, so it was certainly possible. Ten spots were available and competitors were permitted to work as a couple. This option came with a warning that it might be an impediment to marital harmony! Those waiting for their turn were not permitted to watch the others, and waited in the "Cone of Silence".


Kim Ranger was first up in her NC and set the target with a time of 2:02. Paul Byers was next and revealed his "secret weapon" - he had previously removed the boot lining on his NC to free a little more space. His packing efficiency was incredible to watch and his time of 0:43 would be tough to beat. More NCs followed with Phil Ashton (1:04) and Wally Wojewski & Tanya Badovinac (1:17). When Wesley & Lena Hill rolled up next in their NB, murmurs from the field suggested a strong contender. True to form, they set an incredible time of 0:40.5 to claim the lead. John Cassidy and his NC were next (0:49.9) before Graham Wakeham (1:21) and Stephen & Catherine Jordan (59.6) proved that the boot of an ND and ND-RF is equally capacious as their predecessors. A slight miscalculation of packing sequence meant Stephen & Catherine were the only challengers to incur the five second penalty. Ray & Pam Estreich were the second-last contenders, and they packed their NB with the speedy efficiency learnt from a touring holiday in Tasmania. They shot to the lead with a stunning time of 0:38.4. Last up were Tammie & Evan Hotz who filled their NB in only 0:56 to claim 5th place. The winners were Ray & Pam and they happily claimed their prize of a box of Celebration chocolates.


Not only was the Packing Challenge great fun for the competitors and throng of spectators, it also provided some great consumer advice. Yes you really can go camping for the weekend in your MX-5. And when it inevitably rains, it's possible to pack it all away in as little as 38 seconds!

Before you say the NB boot must be bigger than the NC and ND, it should be noted that all three NBs left their spacesaver spare at home and unlike the NC and NDs, they did not carry a puncture repair kit. Their capacity-enhanced boot was fully brimmed, and good luck if they got a flat tyre!

Time for lunch and Paul Byers wheeled out his excellent little BBQ trailer, supplementing the available cooking area from the free electric units on site. Next time he promises to test all the burners are operational before arriving. All sorts of concoctions were cooked up, the most impressive being boerewors (a long spiral of beef sausage, originated in South Africa) and crocodile steaks (tastes just like chicken).


After lunch had settled, we set up the game of Wacky Races. Three teams of four people battled each other in the sack race relay, three-legged race relay, waiter race relay, and finally the thong toss (furthest throw of a thong wins). The cups of water for the waiter race proved to be additionally useful as a water fight ensued after that race. The "A-Team" from Illawarra started strongly with a win in the sack race but then fell behind. Team "First Place" from RPM Chapter proved a misnomer by finishing last in three races and ended up "first at the wrong end". The outright winner was team "Aussie 1" from RPM Chapter. Evan Hotz gratefully accepted the Celebration chocolates for his team, and then proved himself a true gentleman by sharing them with everyone - including the non-MX-5 families whose picnic we crashed. Well done young man! What about the Sydney Chapter team? They chose to entertain themselves with a game of bocce instead - no worries mate.

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Our final activity of the day was a friendly game of tip-n-run cricket. Fielding positions were generally dictated by the availability of shade. The ball disappeared to all corners of the field, and Tanya Badovinac displayed her talent with a lovely range of cover drives and delicate cuts. Expect a call from The Southern Stars, Tanya. After each player had a bat, we called it quits and the crowd of MX-5ers gradually made their departures.


All agreed it was a tops day and a wonderful way to celebrate our national day. I'm already looking forward to doing it all again in 2019, and encourage more club members to come along and join in the fun.

Click here for Rob's Australia Day Picnic photo album