Top-class action in the men’s open division, akin to the quality typically seen at a New Zealand Championships, will provide the highlight of Blue Lake 1 – the first national sprint regatta of the 2020-21 season – this weekend (Oct 10-11).
Following the Covid-19 decimated international season, the leading Kiwi kayakers will be keen to flex their muscles and with the entire New Zealand’s men’s squad in action – expect fireworks to fly in the Division 1 K1 200m, K1 500m and K1 1000m events.
National champion Ashton Reiser (North Shore) has bossed the 200m event in recent times but he will expect fierce competition from his fellow New Zealand squad members; national bronze medallist Ben Duffy (Arawa), Zach Ferkins (Poverty Bay) and Hamish Legarth (Hawkes Bay).
Max Brown (Whanganui) and Kurtis Imrie, who did not compete at the 2020 Nationals as they were in Australia qualifying a K2 1000m boat for the Tokyo Olympics, will also provide formidable opposition in what is sure to prove a mouth-watering battle.
Look out too for national K1 200m silver medallist Taris Harker. The former New Zealand kayak sprint member is a gifted performer over the 200m distance, so expect the Karapiro Racing Club paddler to feature.
The men’s K1 500m promises to be a similarly evenly poised battle with the same seven men profiled in the K1 200m – expected to feature. Reiser edged a close run 2020 national final from Zach Ferkins and if we also consider Zach’s younger brother, Sam, a 2020 national finalist, then it could provide one of the races of the regatta.
Bragging rights will also be on the line in the blue riband K1 1000m as national champion, Zach, Ben, Hamish, Ashton, Max and Kurtis battle it out over the classic distance. Other names entered include 2020 national finalists Tim Waller (Karapiro) and Ben McCallum (Waitara), who will also look to make an impact.
The men’s squad will also seek to pick up more race experience by competing in multiple team boat races over the course of the two-day regatta in Rotorua.
Lake Karapiro-based Canoe Racing NZ coach Tim Brabants said: “The men’s squad have been back in training for five weeks but all the boys are keen to get some racing done. They’ve not raced in a regatta format since the nationals (in February) and while we are not tapering for the regatta and training through, it is a great opportunity for them to get on the start line and race.
“Given that we are not specifically preparing for this regatta, we are not expecting outstanding results, but we hope that the squad will deliver some solid results and get in some good race experience.
“The great thing from my point of view is the boys are all operating at a better level than they left at the end of last season before the break. Any one of the boys could have a fantastic race on the day. All the races are wide open.”
The open women’s racing will also serve up some thrilling racing with the K1 200m and K1 500m the stand out highlights. In the former event, national silver medallist Aimee Fisher (Hawkes Bay) will start pre-event favourite.
Also entered are national 8th place finisher and New Zealand squad member Samalulu Clifton (North Shore) and her club-mate – 2012 London Olympian Teneale Hatton.
In the K1 500m expect the same trio of athletes to also come to fore. Teneale finished 7th in the B Final in this event at the London Olympics. Meanwhile, Aimee won a bronze medal at the 2020 Nationals in February.
Samalulu placed seventh in that event at Lake Karapiro with national 10km champion Emma Kemp (Mana) among the entries for this event.
Note, other New Zealand kayak squad members; three-time World Championship medallist Kayla Imrie (Mana), Poverty Bay’s Alicia Hoskin and Danielle Watson (Mana) will also feature in team boats at Blue Lake 1.
The regatta will operate a divisional format – in which competitors will be seeded in divisions based on registered 200m times.
Blue Lake 1 will feature races in the usual age-divisions; tyros, U14, U16, U18, open and masters. Relays and mixed races for those aged 18 and over will also take place.
The action gets underway at 7.30am on Saturday.
Note, the regatta will be proceeded with a one-minute silence at 7.15am on Saturday for former World Wildwater champion and New Zealand World Marathon Championship representative Andrew Martin. Andrew tragically lost his life at the age of 58 in a car accident last month.
We would like to mark the one-minute silence with everyone at the lake edge either in their boats, or on the beach with paddles.
For up to date results follow go to https://liveresults.co.nz and search for the event, or download our app (Canoe Racing NZ in the app store).
Image: Of Ben Duffy and Hamish Legarth by Vera Bucsu