2020 has been a wild ride for paddlers, with many around the country forced from the water as lockdown restrictions were put in place to stem the potential for pandemic outbreaks.
Here in NSW, at the critical moment, our peak body negotiated a sensible deal with the health authorities which kept us paddling. Paddlers responded in turn by being......sensible! No incidents, nobody being seen to do the wrong thing, and the result was a winter of uninterrupted paddling in pairs through the most serious stages of lockdown.
The benefit of this advocacy flowed through to all paddlers, regardless of whether you were a member of Paddle NSW, and it's something to think about if you ever wonder what a peak body actually does for you.
When the Myall & Hawkesbury Classics became the latest casualties of pandemic prevention, Paddle NSW announced the Morison Cup. Run along the same inclusive lines as the Myall, with a 50km, 25km, and 12km option, on an out & back course beginning at Windsor in the afternoon and into the night, it promised to give us our Hawkesbury night-time experience, as well a challenge to suit your ambition.
Our training schedule composed of a game of golf with old cricket mates at Mollymook and a night on the cans where we decided we'd done the Hawkesbury last year, and we'd be fine for a race half the distance, just on the basis of experience. We call it the tapering strategy, just pure tapering. In the broad church of sports science, it's not a well known strategy.
It was very apparent that a winter without racing had the marathon crowd primed for this one, and the speed off the start line was a little too hot for mugs like us. Nevertheless, we settled into our cheerful rhythm of banter and chirp, but being a little off the pace, sadly we didn't have the usual number of mid-packers around us to annoy.
Sometime around the 15km mark amid teeming rain & electrical storms, the heavens opened up and dropped a good ten minutes of stinging hail in our laps. Having never seen a hailstorm last that long on the water, and certainly never being stupid enough to stay out in it and keep racing, I got a shock at how fast the temperature dropped and revealed our poor choice of ice-resistant paddling clothing.
We decided to soldier on despite getting cold enough to be quite concerned, and thankfully the weather eased, the wind stopped and the normal muggy spring evening resumed soon enough.
Just as we approached the 25km turnaround, Annette & Mark piloting the safety boat advised us that we had to turn & head for home.
We later learned that there had been a problem with the other safety boat which made it hard to continue the race.
Whilst our trip downriver was fast & cheerful, the slog back into the tide was a little more character testing, or maybe character revealing, or maybe even preparation revealing.....
Along the river as we chugged home almost all paddlers either passing or being passed would shout out a word or two of encouragement or crack a joke, which proved that in spite of some crappy weather and a genuine handbrake tide, everyone was happy to just be back out there among their peers.
We were treated to a golden sunset, something I've never encountered on the Hawkesbury because I'm usually going the other way. It was a stunner, worth the entry fee alone.
The new Windsor Bridge and the finish line beckoned soon enough and we were done, maybe not in great style, but certainly looking damn stylish. And truly, the next race we go in, other paddlers should heed our warning, nobody ever beats us 33 times in a row.
Well done to everyone who made the trek out to Windsor to take part, it sure felt good to be among a big bunch of paddlers again in this wacky year.
And thanks again to the unsung folks at Paddle NSW for getting this event together at the last minute & giving us our night out on the Hawkesbury.