Monday 19 April 2010


Taking the bait from fellow ski novice Stacka, I lined up on Sunday morning for the inaugural Rose Bay Challenge, primarily a ski race around a 15km course on Sydney Harbour. Apart for the Hawkesbury Classic, I've never been in any form of race so it was a new experience for me, and the organisers had drawn some of the big guns of the ocean racing series to take part. Checking the forecast beforehand, I thought I'd give my Rapier a blast instead of the ski, due to the very light conditions, & the fact that the Rapier is a faster boat on flatter water.
Stacka - 'Come on Sundo I dare ya...'
So after some tips & advice from Max Walker before the gun - get onto someone's wash & stay there - I lined up with about 130 other paddlers for the start. Lesson 1, this is not a Wednesday morning paddle where you have the luxury of pacing yourself from the beginning and easing into a rhythm. The start was huge fun, wash everywhere, paddlers jockeying for a spot, zig-zagging across in front of me, heaps of stuff to concentrate on, foot down & go as fast as you can! Lesson 2, if you tear out of the blocks like all the supermen in the field, because you're just having such a great time in the excitement of it all you'll very quickly hit a big wall... 
Apart from the fact that I was knackered after 10 minutes, I was regretting my decision to take the Rapier - the over the back rudder was nowhere near as efficient at grabbing the little wash rides as the super-responsive rudders on the skis. I was going fast when I got into a rhythm, but it was much harder to get into a rhythm in the mess in a boat designed to cruise very quickly, rather than get down & dirty in the mayhem of a ski race.
Anyway, I slugged it out for just under 90 minutes to finish the 15km course averaging just on 10kmh, a bit slower than I've been managing over 12.5km on Wednesday mornings. Lacking the 'ringcraft' and rudder system to properly wash ride made a huge difference to my time. Clearly there is more to this racing caper than having a good forward stroke & fitness, but by hell they help! 
Trying to cut it with the ski's....Image Ian Fevre
I'd say I finished in the bottom 30% of the field which is about where I expected to be first up. I'm not sure I'm, sold on the idea of this sort of flat water racing, if you could call the wash chop at the start flat water. The ocean series starting in September, where the aim is to ride down wind on the sea most of the time, looks like a lot more fun. If I'm not getting any assistance from wind & waves my dodgy conditioning is shown up very badly! My ancestors didn't paddle single boats on flat water, they rode great canoes on the wild ocean, and they had about 40 cousins to help them out...
It was great to experience a different paddle culture, one where fitness, technique & competitiveness (even if it is against yourself) rule. Watching the eventual winner Tim Jacobs cruise past me at about 15kmh was worth the entry fee alone. Man that guy can go - picture perfect forward stroke at a cadence which would generate enough energy to power a small city.  
Tim Jacobs
There is one more race left in the series at Pittwater on May 8. You can get to the race info page through

1 comment:

  1. Mate I went in a couple of those races and took 1st place both times. Mind you I was the only sea-kayak entry for the short course ;-) I was planning to drive up for the Rose Bay one but couldn't get motivated. Sounds like it was a good day. Might see you at Pittwater. Cheers.


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