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Spit to Zoo 2017 Race Report, by Suzie Rhydderch

“Paddling hangover” a state that describes waking up sore from the morning before, with a slightly blurry recollection of details from the race that was, with the promise of stories from friends you shared the day with, and the only possible cure is to get up and out on the water again! I imagine there are about 150 paddlers today that experienced such a state upon waking this morning after yesterday’s Spit to Zoo race (and how many of you got out and “back on it” as they say?)

It might have been the final race of the Harbour Series for 2017, but that didn’t stop 20 or so new paddlers lining up for their first event. And what a day they chose! With the sun up, the wind down, and almost no swell predicted, the harbour was about as inviting as it gets. Hard to believe it was winter out there.

Standing on the beach in front of the yacht club, it was so encouraging to see boats coming from all directions to take part in this iconic race on Sydney Harbour. What struck me the most was the number of young paddlers, and the biggest fleet of females I’ve ever had the pleasure of competing with – Women on Water woohoo! I think we have Jimmy Walker, and a rival crew from Newcastle to thank for bringing along these enthusiastic, competitive, confident athletes – I’m yet to hear who took home bragging rights…

A mass start for all competitors, long and short course, from single skis to OC6′s took place at 9am (about 9.03 for a few people who were some distance from the start line when the hooter went off – oops!). With plenty of speed required up front to jump on the wash of three elite double crew, there was no time for hanging around. As the fleet neared Grotto point, those paddlers in the 8km short course veered right (some more drastically than others), and they continued a rectangular course that saw them hug the coastline inside middle head – taking in Balmoral, Chinaman’s Beach and returning back to the moored boats at the yacht club.

Paddlers in the long course carried on out past grotto to a very tame middle head, which can offer up such a challenge on most days. But not yesterday (much to the disappointment of some paddlers!) In saying that, there were runs for the taking, and I found that when I took my focus off catching the group in front, and put my head down and tried to read the water, I gave myself a better chance! It’s a spectacular scene to paddle past the coastline that includes Obelisk, Chowder Bay, Clifton Gardens, Tailor’s Bay up to Bradley’s Head (apologies to any bays I missed out!) Once around the “lighthouse” at Bradley’s, it was a bit of fun in the choppy water down to the marker off the zoo, and out to the “Panadol” marker – so aptly named! The group I was in had to contend with a boat wash as we turned the marker, which made for some quality down wind waves all the way back to the lighthouse. A few decided it was a good place to cool off, and took a dip, only to ably remount a few moments later – nice work guys! The return leg was assisted by a gentle push from the SW’ly behind us and again, if you could find the lifts, they were a welcome push along.

Being a back of the pack paddler, I rarely get a chance to see who is fighting it out for line honours, but as the group did pass us on the way to the zoo, I can comment that there was some fierce racing by the doubles – made up of Andrew Love/Keithley Burn, Dean Gardiner/Mitch Trim, and Joe Kearney/Sam Hart – with Lovey and Burn taking the bickies on this occasion – impressive win! And in a battle for the singles title, and the honour of having your name engraved on the Mike Snell trophy, it looked like young gun Noah Harvard was going to claim the win. But showing experience, determination, and a massive heart, Dave Coward came from well behind (at least when I saw him) to dig deep, turn himself inside out (apparently) and win the title in a sprint finish – wow! Exciting racing over the 16km long course.

MHYC, together with the Open Water Committee orchestrated a seamless event, from registration to presentation and all bits in between. These events don’t run themselves, and without the work that goes on behind the scenes, us paddlers would not have the privilege of competing in such sensational and safe races. And a huge thanks to our race sponsors: APS, Barz Optics, Epic Kayaks, Jantex, Prokayaks, Vaikobi, Vajda who offered up such generous prizes, that some paddlers went home feeling like Christmas had come! Being July, maybe it is time to get the eggnog out, put the feet up, and recover from yet another paddling hangover…

Suzie

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Spit to the Zoo – July 8th:

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Open Water & Harbour Series

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