In the countdown to the 2021 NZCT New Zealand Canoe Sprint Championships, we focus on a number of key personalities set to compete at the event. First up, we tell the story of one of the country’s leading masters’ paddlers, Vaughan Reed.
Like a fine wine, masters kayaker Vaughan Reed just keeps getting better with age.
Making his NZCT New Zealand Canoe Sprint Championship debut five years ago, the now 48-year-old paddler has steadily improved and at last year’s edition of New Zealand’s premier domestic regatta he claimed two gold and three silver medals with a stellar performance.
At last month’s Blue Lake 2 regatta on Lake Tikitapu, Vaughan served further notice of his rich vein of form by snaring four gold and two silver medals in the men’s masters 45-54 division – highlighted by victory in the blue riband K1 1000m in a new best time of 4:01.79.
And now he moves on to the 2021 nationals at Lake Karapiro next month (Feb 19-21) full of optimism.
A former multisport athlete with a good competitive record as a masters athlete, in 2019 he took the decision to solely focus in kayaking.
“I got the most fulfillment out of kayaking and enjoyed it more as a sport, so I decided to park mountain biking, road biking and running,” explains Vaughan, who is a managing director of a software company based in Orewa.
“Kayaking has much less impact on the body compared to running and offers great versatility through surf ski paddling, marathon and sprint racing.
“I primarily made the move to the focus on the (2019) Masters Canoe Marathon World Championships in China and since that event I’ve continued to focus on paddling.”
The switch to focus his efforts 100 per cent of paddling paid dividends as he struck gold at the World Championships in Shaoxing, snaring the K2 M45-49 division alongside his fellow North Shore Canoe Club training partner Garth Spencer.
Yet as much as Vaughan has achieved in marathon racing he also holds a special affection for the NZCT New Zealand Canoe Sprint Nationals.
“The number of athletes that compete at canoe sprint nationals is impressive, we just don’t see those numbers at marathon events,” he explains.
“CRNZ does an amazing job of organising the sprint champs. It is probably one of the most well organised events I’ve ever been to – it runs like clockwork.”
Vaughan’s first taste of the Canoe Sprint Nationals came Five years ago, although as the Whangaparaoa-based paddler admits the high calibre of racing at the event came as a rude awakening.
“It was a bit of a shock to the system and I was in awe at the race times paddlers were achieving, which seemed way out of reach at the time. As an older paddler, the fast twitch muscles and power isn’t on tap like it used to be.
“My preference is definitely the 1000m race, which lends itself more to technique.”
Since 2019 and making the decision to train most mornings at Lake Pupuke under the guidance of coach Gavin Elmiger proved inspiring for his kayaking development.
Focusing on “cadence and technique” he has made huge gains over the past couple of years.
He is now among New Zealand’s crop of leading masters athletes and he has relished being part of a hugely competitive training group at North Shore Canoe Club of fellow masters athletes, which includes Garth, Andy Logue and Kingi Gilbert.
“The four of us are very similar in terms of ability which makes for a very cool environment down at Lake Pupuke,” he explains. “We compete together in the K4 but also against each other in the K1, which helps further improve our performances.
At this year’s event he intends to target five races but there is no doubt what his main priority will be at Lake Karapiro next month.
“My main goal will be the K1 1000m and hopefully I will crack the elusive sub-four-minute time,” he adds. “I know I’m up against some good paddlers but I’m optimistic of a good performance.”
Currently training primarily with the national sprint championships in mind, he also has half an eye on the New Zealand Canoe Marathon Championships in April and describes his training as a bit of “a juggling act” to reach peak performance for the differing distances and challenges he will face at both events.
So why would Vaughan encourage other masters paddler to enter the NZCT Canoe Sprint New Zealand Championships?
“The masters category has recently grown, but it would be great to see the numbers increase further,” he explains. “It is a tough sport to get into because not everyone can jump into a K1 and paddle it. But once a paddler fully commits, it is a great environment to be a part of and from a fitness level perspective, it is hard to beat.“