Race Report – Harbour Series Race #4 “Dolls Point Classic”, Sat 13 May, hosted by Sutherland Shire Kayak Club
At the risk of sounding British and (yet again) talking about the weather, HOW GOOD WAS THE WEATHER for Round 4 of the 2017 Harbour Series – The Botany Bay Challenge?? I did think, “where else in the world can you paddle two weeks out from winter in a t-shirt and shorts?” So as the phrase goes, it was suns out, guns out, and not just in terms of the hot field of contenders that rocked up to take the race title. Amongst the Lane Cove regulars vying for the top of the podium were Dave Coward, Stew O’Regan and Cameron Cox, who mixed it with the likes of Sasa Vujanic, Dean Blanche and Brett Greenwood. As you can see, these guys are successfully transitioning from flat water marathon racing to harbour/open water events.
In saying that, you could have effectively paddled your K1 there last Saturday – it was that flat! What a contrast to my first harbour race at Dolls Point, where I aborted and spent some time on a nearby sandy beach, wondering how I was going to get home – considering whether swimming without my ski was faster than swimming beside my ski. I suspect this had more to do with my lack of ability than the size of the waves that day, but needless to say, it truly was Botany BAY this year.
The course ran parallel to the beach, heading for Centre Point Tower (which we could just make out through the low fog), before turning sharply and running parallel to one of the runways of Sydney Airport. What a buzz to be keeping pace with a taxiing plane. Perhaps the only time I’d rather be doing what I am, than sitting on a plane heading overseas somewhere. Another turn at the end of the runway, and it was a race for home. For me, it was a day of many chances… Perhaps starting out too fast, I lost the wash of the group I was chasing, and then enthusiastically tagged on to the back of boat, after boat, after boat, after boat that came through. Finally feeling capable of keeping up with about the fourth gentleman to come my way. This was after he kindly told me that the guy ahead who had just dropped me was 61 years old. As you can imagine, spirits were soaring about as high as the grounded planes on my left…
In addition to the hot shots who to me are always a dot in the distance (and I eagerly await post-race rivalry stories over coffee afterwards), I was super proud to see the field littered with Lane Covers, stepping out of their “pristine” river environment to take on a different kind of challenge. Notable mention to Mark Hempel, who in a sea kayak finished in the midst of fast finishing Jezza Spear, Pete Conway (who’s getting better every time he paddles!) and Graeme Jeffries, all on skis. Then a whole host of us continued on for a few more minutes… and perhaps were rewarded for our persistence when a pod of dolphins (how many are required for a pod – I saw at least three) cruised past (and I suspect under) us as we came in for the last turn.
I want to also make mention of those who took on the short course – Brent, Caroline and Anjie. A reminder that if you’re looking to have a taste of harbour conditions, there’s always a short course to partake in (and the next course in Pittwater on Saturday 10th June is pretty as a picture, whichever course you opt for). Now it’s unusual to see Anjie take on anything less than about 1000km, but I believe she had to be in Springwood about half an hour after she was due to finish – always one to fit as much as she can into any given day.
All in all, it was Sydney Harbour at its best, and as always, a privilege to be paddling.
Race report kindly provided by Suzie Rhydderch.