Hosted by Bulli SLSC
Race Report – May 6th saw the running of the previously postponed (due to violent weather) final Ocean Series race of the season – the “Seacliff Challenge”, hosted by Bulli SLSC.
Bulli SLSC organised a stunning day for us all to come down and paddle off shore on Saturday 6th May – clear skies, mild temperatures, calm seas… And for someone not overly confident in the off-shore racing, minimal swell to get off shore and back into the beach was so encouraging to see. The briefing was simple – head straight out, keeping the coast on your left until you get to a pink buoy, and then turn around, coming back with the coast on your right (oh, and mind the reef – this is not an optional portage!)
Of course nothing is ever quite that simple… As we marshalled for the start, the NW’ly arrived, and threatened to blow us all over the starting line and out to sea. But with the wind, came the promise of better downwind conditions (you just had to get through the upwind onslaught first!) It was about 2km into the upwind section that I was wishing for a few more muscles to help me get along faster. I watched as my fellow Lane Cove paddlers became dots in the distance – including Jezza, Pete Conway, Rodrigo… (Dave Coward was probably already on his return leg!) But then my focus shifted to practicing some of the skills required in ocean racing – taking the best line to avoid some of the breeze, watching the water for any hint of a run going my way, navigating the rebound from the cliffs, trying to lose the jet ski that I was convinced indicated I was the last paddler out there – turns out not quite, they just had impeccable water safety! All the mind games you play, as you persist through the hard section just for a taste of the downwind leg – and it was oh so sweet!
Rounding the pink buoy for the 9km paddle home, it was like a different race – the wind was behind us, and there were runs for the taking – the focus shifted to looking down and just ahead to see where the “holes” were, and aiming the nose of my boat for those sections of water. At this point in time, it mattered so much less that I was near the back of the field – I was simply having too much fun and loving the ride home. At one point on the way back, I caught a glimpse of the escarpment, that made for such a dramatic backdrop to our race course. Coupled with the azure blue of the ocean, I found myself thinking more than once, “where else would you rather be!”
Coming in to the beach, it’s true to say that I was definitely making up numbers at the wrong end of the field. But on reflection, to have been out there and giving it my all, in what were pretty challenging conditions wind-wise, I had a blast, and will be back for more!
Thanks to the support from the Lane Cove paddlers who made the trip south – I think we all finished with a big smile on our face, and that’s what it’s all about really!
Race report kindly provided by Suzie Rhydderch.