Windy Wellington is looking likely to live up to its reputation at the inaugural Windy City Downwind race, with the forecast 18-20 knot north-wester an exciting prospect for the 60 downwind paddlers set to line up on the start line on Saturday.
This is exactly what Kupe Canoe Club were hoping for when deciding to launch this new event, which doubles as the opening round of the 2021/22 Darcy Price NZ Ocean Racing series.
“Conditions are looking ideal” said Toby Brooke, co-race organiser alongside Jonno Alsop. “We get awesome downwind paddling here in Wellington and we are really looking forward to being able to showcase this to the wider paddling community this weekend. This is what we were dreaming of when we sat down to plan this event and set the date to make the most of the spring northerlies. It is wicked it is looking like working out.”
Whilst Covid restrictions in the upper North Island are affecting some paddlers’ ability to attend, race management is stoked with entry list so far. “We would have been happy with 60 paddlers if covid wasn’t a factor, so it is cool we are getting this much interest anyway. We know there are lots of extra paddlers who would’ve come if they could, so that is promising for what this race could become in the future.”
A race in the capital city was the brain-child of a few Wellington paddlers after a few too many car rides to other downwind races around New Zealand. They see it as an opportunity to share the awesome paddling that is possible in Wellington, as well as a good step to help grow the sport of ocean paddling in the region.
A slightly shorter course was identified as a way to do this, as organisers recognized that the 20km+ course typical of downwind races were often too long and intimidating for those more casual paddlers. The 16km inner harbour course from Petone to Tarakena Bay aims to be more accessible and less intense for paddlers who may not have the confidence to tackle a full distance, open ocean course.
They have also re-thought the usual age-group divisions, instead separating paddlers based on boat width meaning paddlers of similar abilities will be racing each other creating more competition within the overall race.
Paddlers are coming from all over the lower North Island and upper South Island. The women’s race will be an exciting watch, with Anne Cairns, Tara Smith and Bailee Stratton likely pushing each other hard.
In the men, local paddler Toby Brooke, who finished 3rd overall in last season’s Darcy Price series, will put race organizer duties aside and line up as the favourite in the men’s race. But he will have stiff competition from the likes of Carl Barnes (Waitara) and Chris Emmett (Bay of Plenty).
The race starts at 12.15pm and will have live tracking available so spectators can keep up with the action. Follow along here https://flotilla.safetrxapp.com/events/crnz/windycity
This is the 3rd edition of the Darcy Price NZ Ocean Racing Series, which comprises of the premier surfski races around Aotearoa. This year’s start has been delayed, after the Poor Knights Crossing in Tutukaka was cancelled in September due to the nationwide Covid lockdown. Next month’s Auckland King and Queen of the Harbour has also been postponed and is set to be rescheduled to April/May 2022 (new date TBC).
The Darcy Price series is made up of 7 events each summer, one of which will also double as the NZ Ocean Racing National Championships. A paddler’s best 4 races will count towards the series results. For further details of the series check out https://www.paddler.nz/darcy-price
It is not too late to sign up to the event if you are interested. Full details and online entry can be found here http://kupe.org.nz/events/windy-city-downwind/