Toby and Tara at the double

Toby Brooke and Tara Smith enjoyed a memorable weekend of racing in Tasman Bay to take out the King and Queen of the Bay titles, respectively, before the following day securing the South Island Surf Ski titles. 

Enjoying good downwind conditions on the 26km route from Kaiteriteri Beach to Mapua Wharf, Toby Brooke profited by taking the inside line to regain the title he last won in 2019 to defeat defending champion Ben Keys by a 23-second margin.

Meanwhile, in Saturday’s women’s race, Tara Smith was delighted with race strategy she adopted to claim a comprehensive victory by more than a three-and-a-half minute margin from Anne Cairns and claim her first Queen of the Bay title.

In a highly competitive men’s battle, little separated the main two protagonists for much of the race but the superior race strategy of Toby proved the difference as he completed the distance in 1:46:20.

“It was good fun,” adds Toby, who went into this race 28pts adrift of Ben in the overall 2020-21 Darcy Price standings. “It wasn’t perfect conditions but it was probably about as good it gets. 

“After leaving the Bay, I cut more on the inside and kept an eye on Ben the whole way. With about 5km to go we lost sight of each other and I took the inside line and by the time we got to the entrance I probably had 50m or so on Ben.

“It’s been a few years (since I’ve beaten Ben), he’s got the better out of me over the last few races, so I’m stoked to take the win.”

For Ben, who triumphed in December’s King and Queen of the Harbour and placed second in the Bhutty Moore-Morial earlier this month, another second spot maintained the Ocean Ski Canterbury paddler’s recent consistency.

“I tried to follow the same line as I did last year, which was roughly in the middle,” he explains. “I was surfing left with the runs keeping Toby on my right, thinking he’ll have it harder at the end, but he ended up beating me. He surfed really well, I ran out of steam that last couple of kilometres but full credit to him.” 

Ben’s Ocean Ski Canterbury team-mate Jimmy Feathery matched his third place finish from last year to secure another King of the Bay podium in 1:49:59.

“I just wanted to keep the two fast boys in check, but I’m happy to pick up another podium,” explains Jimmy.

“Early on, Toby and myself took the inside line with Ben on the outside. But I then made the mistake of going out to Ben in the middle part of the race, which definitely wasn’t the right option because Toby flew home to the finish from the inside.” 

A new Queen of the Bay was crowned on Saturday as Tara Smith (see above) claimed a decisive win in a time of 2:04:13. “Excited” to be competing in good conditions the South Islander said: “We quickly spread out and when I tried to look back I couldn’t see them (her main rivals in the women’s race). 

“We all took different lines but I’m really happy with the line I took. I had a good line down the middle and I’m pretty stoked with the win.” 

Samoan Tokyo Olympic-bound sprint paddler Anna Cairns was scheduled to have competed at the New Zealand Canoe Sprint Championships but following its postponement she seized the opportunity to compete in Nelson.

“The racing was good,” said Anne, who divides her time between living in New Plymouth and Palmerston North. 

“Tara made an awesome start and was on a really good line. I just tried to follow that line and keep an eye on what was on the inside. We had some good bumps, although my arms started to cramp up late in the race.”

Anne completed the 26km route in 2:07:54 with Carly Keys (Ocean Ski Canterbury) completing the top three in 2:10:19.

Many of the paddlers returned the following day to compete over the 21km distance from Cable Bay to Tahunanui Beach.

The men’s event served up the same podium order as Toby claimed a narrow 19-second victory in a time 1:28:00 from Ben. Jimmy again placed third in 1:30.24.

Tara completed the perfect weekend by also clinching the South Island title. She did so by a margin of 1:09 from Carly Keys, who stopped the clock in 1:40:40. Sophie Hart (1:47:42) was the final podium filler in third.

In each of the first three rounds of the 2020-21 Darcy Price Series we have had a different winner at all events in both and the men’s and women’s events.

The penultimate round of the series – the New Zealand Virtual Championships – will be contested throughout the month of March over the 12km distance.

Full results of the King and Queen of the Bay here 

Full results of the South Island Surfski Champs here   

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