Rachel Clarke will be chasing a ninth women’s title while a highly competitive and open men’s surf ski race will provide the likely highlights of the 2020 Vaikobi King and Queen of the Harbour on Saturday.
The 24km long course race, which starts at the Waitemata Canoe and Multisport Club on Te Atatu Peninsula and finishes on Takapuna Beach, will serve up an attractive race route for the flagship race on the New Zealand surf ski calendar – which also represents the opening race in the 2020 Darcy Price Series.
With a predicted westerly breeze of between 10-12 knots gusting at 20 knots, Race Director Danika Mowlem believes the course and forecasted race day conditions should lend itself to a great experience for all entrants.
“It is always spectacular to paddle under the Harbour Bridge and through the heart of Auckland city,” explains Danika. “It is a unique course and in the right weather conditions, it can be a really awesome paddle. Let’s hope for a good tailwind on Saturday.”
The long course races will proceed at 11.30am with three of the top six men returning from the last edition of the event, which took place in November last year.
Sam Newlands (Bay of Plenty) is an ultra- consistent surf ski paddler and will be hoping to improve upon his third place position he grabbed just over 12 months ago.
Another contender is Toby Brooke (Kupe-Wellington), a former national flatwater medallist who last November placed fifth in the King and Queen of the Harbour.
However, the most in-form paddler in the men’s field is 2019-20 Darcy Price Series winner Ben Keys, who finished ahead of Sam and Toby to clinch victory in the Poor Knights Crossing in September.
Ben (Ocean Ski Canterbury), who finished sixth in the last edition of the King and Queen of the Harbour race, believes he did not paddle the optimum race route 12 months ago but believes he has learned from the experience and is raring to compete on Saturday.
“I’ve been training specifically for this race, enjoying the spring weather,” adds Ben.
“It is always enjoyable to race Toby and Sam. The King and Queen of the Harbour is the unofficial New Zealand Championships, the first long-distance surf ski race in New Zealand with a real tradition.
“We don’t yet know what the conditions will be on the day, I just want to get out there and paddle and see what happens.”
In the women’s oceanski race, eight-time former winner Rachel Clarke will start a clear favourite to add title number nine.
The former World Surfski bronze medallist and Molokai Crossing champion recently took the decision to retire from international paddling to focus more on surf lifesaving, but the 30-year-old Aucklander will still be the woman to beat in a race she has owned for so long.
“I’ve not been putting in a lot of ocean paddle training as I’ve been focused more on surf lifesaving, so we will just see how it goes,” she adds.
“But I’m still keen on racing domestically should it fit into my schedule.”
Among the other contenders include Danika Mowlem, who for the duration of the 15km paddle is handing over her duties as race directors to Teneale Hatton. Look out too for Carly Tyler, wife of Ben Keys, who should mount a prominent challenge.
Another interesting entry in the doubleski is Canoe Racing NZ CE Tom Ashley and CRNZ coach Tim Brabants. The pair, who both won Beijing Olympic gold medals (Tom in boardsailing and Tim in the K1 1000m), admit they are not at their fittest at the moment. However, given their competitive instincts expect the duo to paddle strongly.
A fun-focused Kids of the Harbour event will also take place for youngsters aged nine to 14. The kids will race a few short “races” in the new CRNZ Kahawai event format. The action takes place at 2.30pm. All boats, paddles and PFD’s will be provided.
Entries are open for the King and Queen of the Harbour until 8pm on Friday December 4, see more here
To enter the Kids of the Harbour go here
11am (Waka-ama and SUP plus some skis)
11.30am (all remaining categories)
12.45am Short Course Start
2.30pm Kids of the Harbour event