The Inaugural Northern Beaches Open Water Final – Race Report

The Inaugural Open Water Final 2013
Fishermans Beach to Station Beach

This important and new addition to the calendar this year saw a strong fleet of 75-odd competitors. Planning and managing Open Water events is never easy and organizers were anxiously checking the weather updates every day in the week prior. In the end we were reasonably lucky to get a sunny autumn day, moderate 14 knot SW wind & a southerly swell. Competitors knew with these conditions the challenge would be to switch between a wind and swell about 30 degrees apart.

The knee-high beach start by Race Director Brett Greenwood at 1pm saw paddlers on the left side get a slight advantage although the next 18k was the test. The double of Dale Jackson & Kobi Simmat got a clean start & was a popular target for those following. The next choice for competitors was to either go wide and catch the southerly swell, or stay in close & take advantage of the SW, the only obstacle here was Newport Reef.

The 30-39 year old men’s category has long been the most competitive in Open Water racing and here Tim Jacobs took the lead, then Mark Anderson & Paul Smith with both shaping up their tactics. Cade Barnes, Jim Walker & Tommy Woodriff in the 40-49 years were putting their many years of experience into their individual strategies, tacking between wind swell & surf swell in this lead pack. Young buck Greg Tobin was also amongst them, as was the experienced Rob Barry.

Back in the middle pack it has started to spread out including our women Kate McGarth & Trudi Barnes + the OC1’s, all aiming for the turning point of Barenjoey Headland. It was a hard job for the land team to keep up the pace to pack up then beat the field up to Station beach to set-up the timing & equipment needed for the finish.

In the end it was the inimitable style of Tim Jacobs who led in advance of the lead pack, around the headland & into the more sheltered waters of the Pittwater. Tim finished the 18k on his Nelo in 1:25:41, next the big finishing battle was shaping up between Mark Anderson, Cade Barnes & Greg Tobin who had a close encounter with a reef shortly before the finish, all finishing in that order only a couple of seconds apart. Next were Paul Smith, Jim Walker, the Double, and then Tommy Woodriff.

There were many other achievements here apart from the Top 10 of course whether it was a place in your age, completing the series or just challenging yourself to complete this downwind race.

The presentation by Tim Hookins from Paddle NSW and Robbie Stewart from joint partner for this race, Australian Canoeing was a fitting end to the season. For those who stayed back you would have heard Robbie’s speech about the growing importance & recognition of Open Water paddling, the global testimonial being the astonishing success of the Portugal race. Maybe one day Open Water Paddling will become an Olympic Sport & hopefully this event remains on the calendar if this does eventually happen.

Congratulations to all our competitors across the Open Water Series and thank you to our sponsors, Australian Canoeing, all those friends & relatives who assisted with support boats & the BBQ, plus of the course the team at Paddle NSW & the Open Water Committee for pulling this off.

The Portugal team will be announced on Tuesday 21 May.
Tony Haines

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