James Casey reports:
Harry’s Paddle 2015
With the top paddlers in Australia uniting behind the Harry’s Paddle, a charity race to raise money for kids with cancer for the Harry Meyne Foundation, it was always going to be tough weekend of racing.
The BOP was the first of two races for the weekend and conditions were far from desirable. A 20-25 knot onshore wind meant we would have to grind it out in 4 and a half laps in a bumpy ocean. The first half lap was absolute mayhem with people getting blown off boards as they jockeyed for position. I didn’t have the best start, coming unstuck in the traffic, wind and bump, but managed to finish the first run leg somewhere inside the top 20. I then found my groove and slowly built speed, picking off paddlers one by one. The JP 12’6 x 25 Race excelled in the upwind leg, slicing through the bump, and this is where I managed to make up most of my ground. By the 3rd lap I found myself in the top 3, locked in a battle with Toby Cracknell for 2nd as we tried to chase down Kelly Margetts who had quite a lead in 1st. After a bit of to and fro in the waves I managed to get a big enough gap on Toby but couldn’t do enough to reel Kelly in. I crossed the line in 2nd place, in what was a super tough race amongst some world class paddlers.
After a well earned sleep, we woke to a stormy day for the flatwater race, to the Bridge and Back. Winds eased just in time for the start of the race providing a glassy river to paddle in. The start, once again, was mayhem as all paddlers did their best to get to the front of the pack. I was sitting at the back of the lead pack, struggling to make any ground towards the front when I decided to take my own line out in the middle of the river. The glassy water as well as the flowing current allowed me to create a good little gap on my JP 14’ x 24’5 Race a. Trevor Tuntington and I traded turns as we lead a nice little breakaway group. We lasted to the half way mark before we were caught at the turning mark. I had a little slip on the turn but managed to hold 2nd position behind Jake Jensen heading into the second half of the race. I remained in the top 3 until the last few kilometers when I ran out of steam falling away to the back of the lead group, sitting in 6th position. I didn’t have much gas in the tank so I decided to roll the dice and try my luck out in the middle of the river again. The tide was due to change mid way through our race but my lack of racing in rivers or creeks meant I had made the wrong call, tides take a few hours to change in rivers, so I had paddled out into the middle of the channel to paddle against the current. I realized my mistake too late as the lead group gained a 100 meter lead on me and I limped into the finish line in 6th place, behind some of Australia’s and the world’s best paddlers. A great learning experience and one that I will remember for next time.
The competition was so good during this weekend that both the BOP and the Flatwater Bridge and Back were the first two races of 2015 to qualify as a SUP Racer World Ranking event. My results allowed me to jump into the 39th position on the World Rankings, my first time inside the Top 40. Overall it was a great weekend of racing for a great cause and I’m looking forward to Harry’s Paddle 2016.