Mayhew and King win NZ Ocean Ski National Championships

Rachel Mayhew won her 11th Ocean Ski National Championship and Tupuria King claimed his second title on Saturday, at the James Moore-morial Race which doubled at the 2023 NZ Ocean Ski National Champs in Tauranga.

Tupu is paddling’s code-swapping king and he did it once again, jumping back into an ocean ski after a year focused on waka-ama and claiming the win on the Mount Maunganui to Makatu course. Tupu also won the Bhutty Moore race last year, however on that occasion, he was in his waka. In 2021, he won it on his ocean ski.

He didn’t have it easy in 2023 though, having a tight race with Perth-based Kent Jenkinson who made a late run up to the finish on the inside. After 32km, there was less than 30seconds between them with Tupu finishing in a time of 2hour 16minutes and 32 seconds. Gene Prato, a recent arrival to NZ from South Africa, came home in 3rd place in 2.20.07, with Tim Waller in 4th and Michael Waide, first master (50-59years) rounding out the top 5.

“I had a really awesome race. It was really tough battle out there with Kent all the way to the finish. I didn’t see him take the inside line until about 2km from the finish line so really had to put the pressure on there.” said Tupu after the finish.

“A big thank you to all my supporters- the Kai Wa’a Vega ski is awesome- and thanks to all the organisers and helpers. It was a great day on the water in memory of James.”

It was a strong paddle by Kent after a chaotic arrival to NZ. Whilst he arrived Thursday, his luggage remained in Sydney so it was a frantic search for paddles, PFDs and leg leashes for he and his father before race day. At prizegiving, Kent acknowledged everyone for lending equipment and helping him out to get on the water.

In a perhaps surprising result, Josh Bilyard of Mairangi Bay SLSC took home the Under 23 men’s national title, sneaking in ahead of Liam Lace by 30seconds, in a finishing time of 2.32.43. Michael Esterhuizen won the bronze medal. It was Josh’s first major oceanski win, although he recently represented NZ at the SUP World Championships, and the smile couldn’t be wiped off his face after.

Nelson’s Reid Forrest won the 40-49year age group national title, with kayak Olympian Mike Walker in 2nd and Jeremy Kuggeleijn third.

Local Michael Waide is the 50-59 years age group national champ, last year’s overall winner Garth Spencer in silver place and Vaughan Reed in third.

Rob Jenkinson was first over 60years Master.

In the women’s race, Rachel Mayhew (formally Rachel Clarke) was unstoppable once again, leading from the start and taking home her 11th Ocean Ski National championship in a time of 2.35.01. Danika Mowlem was 2nd women home to claim silver at Nationals for the 3rd year in a row. Katrina Madill finished third, Rebecca Cole in 4th and defending national champion Tara Smith in 5th.

It was the fourth weekend of racing for Tara in a row, having also raced at the Waimak Classic, the Deepsouth Downwind (1st) and the Queen and King of the Bay (1st), so perhaps not surprising she was tired on the unforgiving Bhutty Moore course.

Matt Flannery and James Flannery won the Mens Double ski title, and Dan Bremner and Amber Bonny took home the Mixed Double trophy.

The Bhutty Moore Race is a notoriously challenging race, and this year was no exception. There was less wind assistance than forecast, although there were some onshore waves available to catch if paddlers were fit and fast enough to catch them and surf left. Whilst in previous years, paddlers have stretched far and wide from the beach into the open ocean, this year most people tended to take a wide line and head out to sea, before cutting back in to Makatu with help from the waves. Lessons learnt from last years suffering perhaps?

This race wraps up the consecutive run of Darcy Price NZ Ocean Racing Series races for the second half of the season. There are some fascinating battles in the overall series now across all divisions, and with three events to go this summer – Paddler Virtual Champs (March), Heads to Habour (March) and Auckland King & Queen of the Harbour (May)- it is all left to play for.

Full Results of 2023 NZ Ocean Ski Nationals
Event photos, videos and results- James Moore-morial facebook
2022/23 Darcy Price NZ Ocean Ski series results after 5 races.

A big thank you to Paul Roozendaal and his team for holding the 2023 NZ Ocean Ski Nationals as part of their event, the James Moore-morial race. James aka Bhutty was an incredibly talented waka paddler and waterman who lost his life paddling the same course we paddled on Saturday. This event is held annually to honour our friend, to celebrate his life & what he achieved, to get us out training and paddling as he loved and as a reminder to respect the ocean and take all precautions to ensure we all come home from every paddle.

Photos courtesy of The Fat Paddler

If you were a placegetter but did not come to prizegiving and receive your medal, contact Danika-