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Monday, 11 April 2016
Article courtesy of Garth Spencer.
Auckland’s Okahu Bay glistens brightly - 130 colourful sleek carbon racing craft line up at the water’s edge. 10m’s back, lined up between the FLOW Kayaks flags, the anxious surfski, SUP and waka-ama paddlers jostle with nervous pre-race humour. Top seeded paddlers Cory Hill, Michael Booth and Rachel Clarke (2016 Surfski World Champ, runner-up and ladies 3rd place getter respectively), Tahiti’s 22 yr old SUP prodigy Niuhiti Buillard, Annabel Anderson current SUP World Champ and NZ’s Tupuria King Waka-ama legend nervously peer out over the glassy Hauraki Gulf, where two days before the weather was still forecasting big winds. Yes, the 2016 FLOW Auckland King and Queen of the Harbour is about to explode off the beach, kicking off the 2016 Surfski World Series!
Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf was supposed to be churning – the forecast earlier in the week had had the Race Director and racers fizzing, with frantic organisation to take advantage of the Sunday weather day for a small approaching weather system. This had not materialized and the Plan A date of Saturday was selected for the Auckland to Waiheke 23km course. Off the beach and quick to round the first peer were two large groups, in perfect peloton formation, which would later look pretty amazing from the air on the drone footage. Jostling at the front were current World Champs medallists, local boys Andy Mowlem, and Simon Longdill.A large launch would come past, and see the group split in two, with Simon Longdill leading this group off to a southern line to take advantage of the chop, while Cory Hill, Michael Booth and Mark Anderson elected to keep to the north. Heading around the iconic Bean Rock Lighthouse and into the Rangitoto Chanel the group settled in for a long grind.But conditions are never dead flat on the Hauraki Gulf. There is always something to ride, and paddlers who were able to extract just that little bit more form the oceans energy quickly surge away from those who can’t. Julien Torregrossa was among the amazing 22 strong team from Tahiti, seen above racing against the dramatic backdrop of Auckland City’s skyline.With solid representation from the SUP racing discipline, Tahiti’s Niuhiti Buillard who is taking the Stand Up Paddleboard world by storm relished the flat conditions and was just too slick for 2nd and 3rd place-getters, NZ Olympian JP Tobin and Sam Thom. The ladies race was snatched once again by Anabelle Anderson in a close finish, who was a very credible 4th SUP overall, and only 30 seconds behind JP Tobin. Runner-up were local girls Penelope Strickland and Ange McKee.
Tupuria King charged to victory after a storming start. Teneale Hatton who enjoys world success in a broad range of paddling disciplines, from K1 200m sprint to ocean racing, was off the beach and up on the diamond wash of the first bunch. “It’s amazing to have this level of world class paddling on our doorstep!” says Race Director Garth Spencer. “To watch these two girls racing their hearts out against one another in Tahiti was incredible!” While Teneale took Gold at the World’s, pipping Rachel into Bronze, today would be Rachel Clark’s chance: “For me personally I don't mind the conditions being dead flat or an awesome downwind. But of course downwind is a lot more fun! It was extremely tough with conditions being dead flat and we had the benefit of an outgoing tide. I had a terrible start and was in the back half of the field getting on the water. I managed to get going well after that and slowly made my way up the group. About 3kms into the race I caught up to Teneale and for about 2 1/2 kms we were side by side. I then managed to pull away on some small runs and kept pulling away. I felt really comfortable and strong the entire way.”With Molokai Surfski World Series race only 7 weeks away, Rachel is looking forward to some long sessions to round out here prep. Rachel Clarke storms into Waiheke Island’s Matiatia Bay to cinch her 4th Queen of the Harbour title!Australia’s Cory Hill and Michael Booth come charging into Matiatia Bay to claim first and second respectively, flowed closely by Mark Anderson in third.“The race went OK for me – the only challenge I had was at the entrance to Matiatia Bay, where we saw the turn boat approach us before we headed north for the top turn.” While this cost Cory a few seconds it was a welcome opportunity for Michael Booth to get back onto the groupThe logistics challenge of getting 170 competitors and support crew was well expertly handled by Explore Group staff, who loaded up their shiny new vessel with all the SUP craft, and a number of surfski’s. With principal sponsor FLOW Kayaks giving away a brand new surfski with $4,500, and a total prize pool of $16,000, the prizegiving was an appropriately boisterous affair. The Race Headquarters at the historic Royal Akarana Yacht Club was adorned with the latest paddle craft hanging from the rafters, impromptu paddle-off competitions on the multiple ergometers provided by sponsors PaddlePro, and the large trophy-shrine of new and now heritage trophies! As myself and the wonderful team of volunteer help were packing up last night following the prize-giving, I overheard my two young boys playing on the erg’s, shouting “Look – I’m Cory Hill!” and the other replying: “And I wanna be Michael Booth!” as they charged through their imaginary race. I thought how awesome it is that events like this provide this sort of inspiration to our future champions. Well-done to all paddlers and support crew – you are amazing! Lastly thank you to you amazing sponsors – this event was made possible through the generous support of Good Health Choices magazine, Fergs Kayaks, Vaikobi, Strongarm, William Goodfellow and his adventurous team at Explore Group, Balance Sports Nutrition, Canoe Racing New Zealand, FENN New Zealand, Art-in-surf, PaddlePro.co.nz and long-time Pacific Ocean Paddler supporter Star Kayaks.For full results click HERE.
See www.pacificoceanpaddlers.com to find out how you can get amongst it!
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