Despite the gale force winds on Saturday the Auckland Harbour was close to glass off on Sunday morning. At 11am race directors Jason and Katie Pocock had to make the tuff decision as to which of the two courses they were going to choose for the much anticipated 20km Downwind Race. A week out from King of the Harbour, the country’s premier Ocean Paddling Race, they were eager to make the right decision. Their two options were
1. Southerly, westerly or calm conditions – Little Shoal Bay to Mairangi Bay beach (23km)
2. Easterly or northerly winds – Shakespear Park to Mairangi Bay beach (17km)
In anticipation of the forecasted north-west winds the second course was chosen, but with one small amendment. A turning buoy was placed at the Arkles Bay (the base of Whangaparaoa Peninsula) creating and L shaped course, adding an extra kilometre to the overall distance and hopefully enabling the field to pick up some of the north in the breeze that was forecasted earlier in the day.
Most of the field loaded up their skis on the large surf club trailer and pre registered at the course finish - Mairangi Bay. Paddlers arrived at the picturesque Shakespear Regional Park with enough time to spot a few Peacocks, prepare their boat and drink systems for the race ahead and talk a bit of smack before the start.
One of the points of conversation of this race was the staggered start, Women paddlers went of dot, spec ski paddlers five minutes later and the rest of the field three minutes after that. Prizes were to be awarded for line honours, a 500m hot spot for both men and women as well as first 40+, first 50+ and first open 3 person team and first over fifties 3 person team – needless to say that the pace was on right from the start.
Katie Pocock took out the womens hot spot and settled into her stroke comfortably straight away pulling away from the experienced and fit Dene Simpson. Danny Morrison also took off fast as the only spec ski paddler in the field, eager to catch long-time rival/nemesis Pocock. The Men’s field took off with vengeance three minutes later with newly relocated Cantabrian Ben Keys, showing his Surf Lifesaving pedigree and surprising some in the field to take the Hot Spot. Special note goes to Dave Chambers at this stage as he claimed the auspicious “cold spot” title at the same time.
After the fast start pre race favourite, recent Trans Taupo Champion Tim McLaren lead a small group including Tim Grammar, Paul Wilford, Oskar Stielau, Simon Longdill and the fast starting Keys in the long slog down the peninsula into the tide and mild nor-wester wind. McLaren whittled this competitive group down slowly while chasing the women’s field and eventually paddled past tiring Pocock at Browns Bay with only Tim “Rooster” Grammar hanging on his wash.
And despite the anticipated winds failing to blow that is how things finished up in the end, McLaren eventually pulling away and finishing with a clear victory from Grammar, Wilford, Stielau, Longdill and a slightly blown Keys. Pocock was third across the line but slowed considerably with Simpson finishing only 30 seconds behind her in the end.
Special note must go to the following
First 40+ paddler – Tim Grammar
First 50+ paddler – Dene Simpson
First Open 3 Person Team – Tim McLaren, Tim Grammar, Simon Longdill
First Over 50s Person Team – Dene Simpson, Grant Heim, Sven Hansen.
A small but enthusiastic group of three contested the Novice 8km race which tracked into the finishing field, around a buoy off Browns Bay reef and back to Mairangi Bay Beach. Congratulations to Greg Morrison for taking out this win.
A special thanks also goes to all the very cool sponsors who supported the race, namely
Sierra Coffee – Cam Scott
Fenn Kayak NZ – Oskar Stielau
Delmaine Fine Foods – Paul Wilford
Balance Nutrition – Bailey Elliott
Mairangi Bay Surf Club
Make sure you support these very generous paddlers by purchasing there high quality product when you can.
For a full list of results click on the “races” tab above.