The 2020 Vaikobi King and Queen of the Harbour is the marquee event of the New Zealand surf ski season. Here are five questions to be answered in Saturday’s eagerly anticipated race.
Who will reign supreme in the men’s surf ski race?
With three of the first six finishers from the last edition of the King and Queen of the Harbour taking to the start line, expect a highly competitive battle in the men’s long course race.
Among the pre-race favourites is Ben Keys, the reigning Darcy Price Series champion and victor in September’s Poor Knights Crossing.
The Ocean Ski Canterbury paddler finished sixth in his last outing in Auckland’s iconic surf ski race but recent form suggests the 35-year-old paddler is destined for a much better finish in the 2020 edition.
Toby Brooke (Kupe-Wellington) and Sam Newlands (Bay of Plenty), placed second and third behind Ben at the Poor Knight Crossing and will also expect to mount a strong challenge. Sam enjoyed a noteworthy performance in last November’s King and Queen of the Harbour race, grabbing a podium spot in third.
Can Rachel retain her status as Queen of the Harbour?
On eight previous occasions Rachel Clarke has reigned supreme to win the Queen of the Harbour surf ski race and the Aucklander returns to hunt title number nine.
Rachel, a former Molokai Crossing champion and World Surf Ski bronze medallist, recently retired from international surf ski competition and devotes more time to competitive surf lifesaving.
However, the 30-year-old Takapuna Boating club paddler fully intends to continue to compete in domestic surf ski racing and will take all the beating on Saturday.
How will the waka ama master fare on his surf ski debut?
Multiple winning waka ama national champion and global medallist Tupu King has proved a master of his craft but inspired by a friend, he started surf ski paddling two months ago and has targeted the King and Queen of the Harbour for his surf ski debut.
So far the 27-year-old Papamoa-based paddler has enjoyed the challenge, believing it has been positive for his all-round development.
At the Poor Knights Crossing he placed second overall – one place behind Ben Keys while racing in a waka ama boat. It will fascinating to see how the powerhouse paddler performs in a surf ski in Auckland Harbour on Saturday.
Who will be the grand master?
The masters divisions traditionally serve up some hugely competitive racing and this year is no different. With three masters age groups in operation; 35-44, 45-54 and 55+ some names to look out for are Auckland duo Jeremy Kuggeleijn and Andy Logue. Expect South Islander Mike Walker to also be a competitive presence.
World Masters K2 canoe marathon champions Garth Spencer and Vaughan Reed are both entered, although a recent sickness bug places questions marks about against whether Spencer will paddle.
Watch out too for Max Riley of Takapuna and his club-mate Oscar Steilau.
How will the Tom and Tim go?
CRNZ CE Tom Ashley and CRNZ coach Tim Brabants team up in the doubleski and it will be fascinating to see how the duo will perform. The pair, coincidentally, both won gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics; Tom in boardsailing and Tim in the K1 1000m canoe sprint event. The pair have yet to practise together but should have the pedigree and competitive instinct for a strong showing.
To enter the 2020 King and Queen of the Harbour click here