Monday, 16 September 2013

Miles of Myall Miles



Despite the fact that this year's averse tides were likely to make the 47km version of the Myall Classic paddle race a bit of a grind, I kept telling myself 'would you rather be doing this or another ocean swim!?'
This was my first go at the iconic Myall Classic, a wonderfully scenic marathon race that offers paddlers of all ability levels a distance to take a shot at, be it 12km, 27km or the full monty.
A bright & breezy morning greeted the participants on the banks of the river at Tea Gardens, following a night of electrical storms.
Pre race - Making sure the camera picks up all of my logos.
The start line was awash with all manner of boats, from the sleek double Sladecraft kayaks that seem to burn these courses up, to ocean skis, outrigger canoes & sea kayaks.
Having shadowed Kate & Steve Dawson for 10km of 20km on a warmup paddle on Monday, I thought I would try & tuck in behind them and see if I could repeat the dose, not quite understanding the difference between a race start and a training paddle start. So, as they chugged off into the foamy mass of leaders I began hunting fast dudes to draft.
I admit to being a bit taken with this sort of racing, it's engaging, challenging and once you start to work your way into the sweet spots around a pack of racing paddlers, quite exhilarating.

It was just as well there were guys to chase as the ebb tide was beginning to crank, & we were struggling to maintain speeds around 9kmh, much slower than even a normal training cruise in my V10. 
From the 13kmh mark I was done with the front runners and spent the remainder of the up river leg being drafted myself, which is nowhere near as easy as bludging off the back of someone else!
Thankfully, the tide was still running when I hit the turnaround buoy, so I had a burst run back down the course for about 15km. Tactically, this is the point where you want to have enough gas in the tank to really lift your rating & make the most of the favourable tide. While it's hugely difficult to make even small incremental gains on your normal speeds running into a tide, you can make ground down tide if you're prepared to lift your tempo. It was a salient lesson for this year's Hawkesbury, which will offer a very solid 5-6 hours of flow from the start.
I always feel a bit more cheery when I see the speedo over 11kmh, and it was a nice reward to finally be free of the head current and motoring at & above my training speeds.
I managed to pass a couple of boats on the way back, and then hooked in behind Warren & Bernie in their double as I felt the start of the flood tide again start to apply the brakes to my progress.
We swapped front positions for a few clicks, before they finally lifted their rate enough to leave me behind over the final stretch.
I managed a deranged cackle in the last couple of kilometres, as I passed moorings being dragged under the water by the flooding tide, and my boat speed slowed to 7kmh. I had designs on a sub 5 hour time, but once again watched that float back down the river with the incoming flow, eventually managing 5:04. Memories of my Hawkesbury finish literally flooded back. My trace of the paddle is HERE, which if nothing else illustrates the tidal resistance & also the beautiful serpentine route the race follows along the Myall.
Finished (pic by Owen Walton)
The finish was a buzz of back slaps & smiles. All agreed that it had been a tough day on the river and winning times were a good half hour down on the previous year, where the conditions had lined up a little more favourably. During our paddle back, Warren & Bernie had made the point when I raised a half-whine about the tide, that it's the same for everyone (so stop complaining & get on with it!)
The racing mob are universally good natured & supportive, every crew or paddler I passed in either direction offered a word of encouragement or a small cheer. They're obviously dedicated, and while at the pointy end of the field they're unmistakeably there to race, they do so with a great spirit of camaraderie.
Myalls of smiles at the presentation
Despite being the grind it was this year, the Myall Classic is a wonderfuly inclusive event, and the perfect warm up for the Hawkesbury Classic, testing as it does your boat fit out (and crucially, your comfort), your fitness, and your resolve.
Congrat's to Mike Eggleton & the Just Paddlers crew for doing such a stirling job in organising and running the race, and of course in their support of Charlie Teo's Cure for Life Foundation.
Expedition Kayaks were the major sponsor of this year's Myall Classic.

2 comments:

  1. Was a "tough day at the office", but despite that all paddlers (masochists?)seemed to enjoy the race and most will front up next year. Friendly atmosphere, close company most of the time and no matter where you were positioned there was always someone near you to beat. With the 3 distance options it is for all levels of paddlers; boats ranged from Olympic K1s to plastic kayaks, all giving their best. I'll be back next time!

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  2. Agree entirely Owen, a lovely social event mixed with some sharp competition. Loved every minute of it (nose growing…)

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