Tuesday 15 October 2013

The Hawkesbury Classic Looms

Less than two weeks to go to this year's Hawkesbury Classic, an iconic 111km paddle race with up to 500 hardy participants, overnight along Sydney's Hawkesbury River.
I revisited this race last October after not having taken part since 2003, and gained a lot of satisfaction from my race training & the event itself.
I was aiming to beat the magic 11 hour mark, racing in Tiderace's fast ocean going Pace 18 sea kayak, but fell foul of a brutal final tide and a smidgin of tactical nous, in just missing out, finishing in 11:08. My report of the race 'Emptying the Tank' is HERE.
Last year's start - I'm back in the Tiderace Pace 18 in 2013
This year I think I'm generally fitter, maybe if not quite as flat water paddle hardened - lets face it, how much of that stuff can you do before you start to go a bit strange? Not much offence intended to my white line buddies…
The tides are going to cruel a few of the early starters in the recreational 'Brooklyn or Bust' non-competitive division, but for my Medium Rec category (I'm back in the Pace 18 so it's fair race against my 2012 self) going off 45 minutes later things aren't quite so unfavourable. This year we'll run into about 60-90 minutes of weak opposing tide, before getting an almighty push for 6 hours or so.
The colour of the Hawksbury Classic
Herein lies the crux of my race against 2012 me. My aim is to get as far & as fast along the course in that 6-7 hours where things are either going my way or not going against me too hard, then holding on for the last 3 hours or so & hopefully clawing home inside my target time. Last year's maximum flood tide dropped my speed as low as 7kmh, which when I need to maintain about 9.1kmh to beat 11 hours is quite a slug. If last year's flow is replicated, this means I need to be no further than 30km from the end after 7 hours (the true race course being pretty much bang on 100km).
The good news from past experience, is that even if you feel like you're going to die at the traditional 60km stop point at Wiseman's Ferry, you generally don't feel much worse than that at the finish line. I call it the 'feeling like sh*t plateau', and it's quite comforting to know that what you're feeling at Wiseman's is probably as bad as it is going to get.
Wiseman's Ferry stop 2012, overjoyed at reaching the 'feeling like sh*t plateau'
The tactical nous that I missed last year was not going hard enough when things were running my way. I conserved energy paddling down tide, when I probably should have gone harder, and trusted my ability to recover whilst moving into the steady resistance of the incoming tide later on. Hard as it sounds, the flood tide by it's very nature restricts your hull speed and you do tend to level off your effort as you plug through it. I'm fitter this year so no excuses!
Last year's finish, 8 minutes adrift….aaarghh!
The Classic is run in support of the Arrow Bone Marrow Foundation, and this year it carries special resonance for me, having caught up a few weeks ago with my old cricket coach at Randwick, Barry Davison. Davo is a proper legend in the Sydney grade cricket scene, having mentored countless Test & State cricketers through the system, and even managing to get a few decent performances out of me when I was paying attention. He has had his coaching curtailed in recent times by a full frontal battle with bone marrow cancer, one that has hosed him down more than once, but fingers crossed a fight he is slowly getting the better of. During our lovely catch up he he gave me the rundown on the treatment, the expense, the discomfort of it all, and emphasised the phenomenal research work being done by bodies like The Arrow Foundation. He has had a couple of brand new drugs fresh off the lab table and they have made a world of difference to his recovery, so this stuff is real and it makes a difference.
The Hawkesbury Classic people make it very easy for people to sponsor paddlers, with individual pages set up for donations. Mine can be found HERE. I described sponsoring me in race a while back as an investment in my suffering, but having talked to Baz I think that's clearly an overdramatisation of something that I'm choosing to do for a challenge. If you've got a spare few bucks, please consider sponsoring me and contributing towards the treatment of Bone Marrow Cancer patients. If you look at my sponsor's list, you'll see that Barry was the first guy to chip in.
Best of luck to all of the paddlers taking part this year.
Expedition Kayaks are a major sponsor of this year's Hawkesbury Classic, following on from our support of the Myall Classic, Royal Challenge & Hydrothon. If you've got any last minute questions or queries about your race, we've got well thought out gear combinations that are proven to work across the broad temperature range during the night, and can offer advice on tactics & race day preparation. Always happy to hear from a fellow Classic racer!


  1. Are you ware that the original tide chsrt published by HCC didn't allow fot daylight saving. This has now been updated. Upshot is an extra hour against tide at start and basicall against tide from Wisemans to finish for 10 to 11 hr paddle.

  2. Yep, I wrote this after that change. Not that dissimilar to last year, just a longer period from the start into the tide.


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