Below is my race report. For a comprehensive cover of this race go to "The Big One" thread on ausoutrigger.
It was a pissa of a downwind race. I am sure most of you have paddled great downwind courses but how many have occurred on RACE DAY. This one was a pearla. With the wind above 20knots and increasing throughout the race the whitecaps got bigger and the troughs deeper.
The so called beach start up to your knees turned into a free for all as everyone mounted their canoes and paddled forward. I was 10 metres behind the guys who snuck ahead and I reckon Rambo was at least thirty. The flag dropped and we paddled through a small break. The bluff protected the start area and most of the field headed straight out to sea looking for the whitecaps we could see in the distance. After 500metres I started to turn and head down the course. Rambo paddled straight out for an eternity. I decided he had led me astray once too often and I wasn't following him this time.
The girls started first followed by the surf ski's and outriggers 10min later. The Red7 and Fenn's, Epics etc were last to leave another 10 minutes later.
I hadn't been on the ocean since the Northern Beaches on 9th November, 2008 so I was abit rusty and finding my way in the bumps, I went out wider than most looking for those big whitecaps hoping I could make up some ground surfing. Rambo went heaps wider and somewhere along that first part of the course he surfed past me without me noticing. I can't believe I missed that mug going past.
To my surprise I found the rhythm of the ocean and everything just clicked into place, I found some wind runners consistently running across the swell, I had been taught to use these to get the speed to catch the swell. Once I was on a wind runner I just hooked left and caught some nice runs down the face of the swell. I was on cloud nine, wasn't even aware of anyone around me, just doing my own thing and enjoying every second of it. I did notice the boys from Melbourne on a double in my vicinity, I would catch a wave and link up another one and be right behind them only to fall behind again as they caught the swell coming through.
I started to look around and take in the beautiful coastline, Australia's premier surf coast, and realised what a special place we were paddling in. I was conserving my energy as my old sensei had taught me only making a serious effort when the nose dropped. Rambo also showed me how to follow the back of a wave when you were dropping off so I didn't stall too many times maintaining speed to catch the next runner.
We were nearing Point Addis, I was having a chat to the Melbourne boys about how to get in. I could see Steve Vegh in front of me cutting the reef. We were told to go in their at our own peril. Well I was on too big a high and decided if he was going in there I was going to try and catch him before the portage. I closed the gap to four boat lengths as we entered the break zone. I was dropping in on a decent wave when I realised Steve was at the bottom of it and I was going to drop right on top of him. I hooked left to avoid him and the rest is history, I was flying and could hear the rumble behind me, looked to my right at the curling breaker which promply smashed me into the reef. No boat damage, I grabbed the rear aiko as I went over and kept the canoe high in the water. I stood up and I was waist deep standing on the reef. Jumped back on quickly only to be picked up by another wave, this time I was screaming down the front of it watching the water disappear from the nose of the canoe, I levered over the back of the wave and hulied again. It was that or smash the nose off on the reef. This time when I stood up the water was below my knee, my drinked bladder was ripped from the bungee and my ZRE hat was gone. I let another decent wave go by then jumped on and caught some nice LITTLE runners into the portage area.
For the paddlers the portage was a pain in the arse, but for the landcrew and families watching it was a great spectacle and something worth considering for other races as spectators are never catered for.
I must of looked like a drowned rat as I ran around the shoot, Stew from Geelong kindly grabbed me a bottle of drink to continue my journey. I paddled straight out again until I was in whitecaps. As I paddled out I notice a few nicks on my ankles were leaking some red stuff that was good for attracting fish. I was not fishing so I was not happy to see blood tricking down into the footwell which was draining into the ocean. I decided it was better not to look behind me. Maybe Jaws would take Notto or Danger as they were in the berley trail.
Now I was in familiar territory as I could see Bells. I plotted a straight line course for Point Danger and the wind runners and swell were both firing in the same direction. The wind had picked up and the swell was breaking heavily. All the ingrediants for a fast ride home. For once in my life I passed canoes and moved up the field instead of fading, Kevin's secret formula of waxie maise must of being paying off. Rambo's boot camp and all the information I had gleaned from this site was all starting to kick in together. I started linking run after run. I had to lift the ama dropping into the face of the steep swell to stop it digging in which gave me rudder control to move around the face and drop the nose into the hole of the next forming wave.
As I got to Point Danger I met a guy on a paddle board doing the full distance, we made our way safely around the huge break. Surf rescue had warned us everyone was cutting too close and were getting smashed. China Polly had served me well so she deserved better treatment than I had given her at Point Addis. I caught the last of the break in toward Fisho's and then a few small runners to the finish. Kevin Long ran up to me and congratulated me on my finish.
So Grahame, if you wanted a race report, there is mine, hope you could stay awake to read it and your soup didn't get cold. To all the novices on big oceans like me I hope you enjoyed my story. Get the right coaching and have a crack, a race is the safest time to have a go. And to ocean warriors like Thor who go out for the thrill and to test their courage in conditions no one will ever let you race in, you have my utmost respect.
There will be a video to follow when I get a chance to edit it!
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