Windy Wellington delivered on its name, putting on fantastic conditions as the 2021/22 Darcy Price NZ Ocean racing series finally got underway over the weekend.
The Windy City Downwind, a new surfski event hosted by the Kupe Canoe Club, started in tranquil conditions in Petone but the 18-20 knot north-wester built up great downwind conditions as the paddlers headed towards the harbour entrance. A stronger than expected crosswind in the final stage of the race to the finish line at Tarakena Bay brought everyone back to reality and gave the safety boats something to do, but all paddlers arrived safe and smiling.
Toby Brooke, who finished 3rd overall in last season’s Darcy Price series, took off his race organiser hat and won line honours, although the Flannery brothers in the double ski pushed him hard and kept him on his toes for most of the race. Co-race organiser Jonno Alsop was 2nd in the men’s ski division, prompting some calls of secret local knowledge, although Toby suggested the many “safety check” runs of the course had something to do with it. Chris Emmett from Tauranga rounded out the podium in 3rd.
Less than 100m separated first and second in the women’s field after 16 kilometres, with Anne Cairns just pipping Tara Smith to win. Anne recently competed at the Tokyo Olympics representing Samoa, and has been mixing it up since her return but relished the return of events.
“I’ve been dabbling in a few different craft since Tokyo, including the V1 (outrigger canoe), so wasn’t sure how I would go.” said Anne. “Tara is an awesome paddler and it was pretty close so I was chuffed to get over the line just ahead of her. More than anything, it was just awesome catching up with so many of our paddling whanau again, and seeing the stoke on everyone’s faces afterwards with the great conditions. The Welly crew put on an awesome event and we’re looking forward to hitting it again next year.”
Sophie Brooke and Abby Hurley from Whanganui Kayak Club won the Mixed Double ski division, a category the DP series is pushing hard this series to promote women getting out into surfskis. Carl Barnes and Roni Nuku won the men and women waka divisions respectively.
Paddlers were rewarded with some awesome spot prizes from Vaikobi, Adventure Canvas and Kayak HQ.
This race was exactly what Kupe Canoe Club were hoping for when deciding to launch this new event, the brain-child of a few Wellington paddlers after a few too many car rides to other downwind races around New Zealand. They see it as an opportunity to share the fantastic paddling that is possible in the capital city and a good step to help grow the sport of ocean paddling in the region.
“We get awesome downwind paddling here in Wellington and it was so cool we were able to showcase that on Saturday.” said Toby Brooke. “This is what we were dreaming of when we sat down to plan this event to make the most of the spring northerlies. We’ve had really great feedback so far and the local paddlers are stoked to have a bigger race in their backyard.”
With Covid restrictions preventing attendance of many paddlers in the upper North Island, there is plenty of promise about what this race could grow into. After Saturday, it has surely cemented itself into many paddlers’ event calendars.
This is the 3rd edition of the Darcy Price NZ Ocean Racing Series, which comprises of the premier surfski races around Aotearoa. This year’s start has been delayed, after the Poor Knights Crossing in Tutukaka was cancelled in September due to the nationwide Covid lockdown. Next month’s Auckland King and Queen of the Harbour has also been postponed and is set to be rescheduled to April/May 2022 (new date TBC).
The Darcy Price series is made up of 7 events each summer, one of which will also double as the NZ Ocean Racing National Championships. A paddler’s best 4 races will count towards the series results. The next event is the Paddler Virtual 12km Challenge in January, followed by the James Moore-morial race in Tauranga. For further details of the series check out https://www.paddler.nz/darcy-price
Well done to Kupe Canoe Club for a fantastic first event and as always a big thank you to all the volunteers and sponsors who make it possible for events to happen.
Final results to come shortly.
Photos by Georgia Schofield- Check out full gallery here