Rasdex Classic River Race



The weather gods played ball and the 28th annual Classic River Race was able to run on the Waimakariri river full course, from Mt White Bridge to Gorge Bridge. Wind was certainly the order of the day for the Race, like it had been for the previous races in Rasdex Classic River Race Series. Paddlers had to battle it out not only against each other, but Mother Nature with her relentless gusting, and baking heat!


We saw a fabulous turnout up at Mount White bridge for the start early Saturday morning, with 146 keen competitors raring to go. We had fine, clear weather with a strong tail wind and low river conditions. The river flow was just below 60m3/s, temperatures reached 30 degrees, and strong westerly winds of up to 27km/hour picked up as the day and km’s ticked by.


An early collision and resulting boat damage saw one of the favourites, Steven Armstrong exit at Gooseberry, with a boat full of water. Sam Manson held a good pace, with good knowledge of the river saw him take the first place for Open Male with fastest time of the day – 3hrs55mins, which was a step closer to the race record 3hrs26min21secs, held by Ben Fouhy since 2002. Sam felt it was a good day with the tailwind helpful…. at times! Garth Spencer, from Royal Akarana Yacht Club, travelling from Auckland to race took out second spot, followed closely by Reid Forrest from Tasman Bay Kayak Racing Club in third place.

Open female’s race for the podium eventuated as a tight finish with all three place getters finishing within 30 seconds of each other. Victory this year goes to Sophie Hart with a time of 4hrs22mins27secs, closely followed by Katie Cambie, 4hrs22mins44secs for second place, pipping Elina Ussher to third place, 4hrs22mins54secs.


Veteran male category as always was another closely fought contest between training partners, with bragging rights this time to Tony McGuire with a finish time of 4hrs18mins20secs. Devern Burchett didn’t leave anything in the tank with a 3 second advantage 4hrs20mins29secs coming in second place over Hayden Prattley 4hrs20mins32secs, who pushed him right to the line.


Alex Martin took out Veteran female category, finishing forty plus minutes ahead of close battle for second and third place with Sarah Helmore boasting a 27second advantage over Paulette Birchfield.


Ian Edmond triumphant in Classic male category with a time of 4hrs7mins11mins, only 35seconds ahead of Ian Huntsman in second place, followed by Dave Maitland in third place.


Classic females couldn’t knock down numero-uno Wendy Riach, as she’s has been on a winning streak all series in a time of 4hrs37mins39secs ahead of Anne Thomson from Tasman Bay Kayak Racing Club in second place and Mary Clark from Kupe Canoe Club, Wellington in third place.


Doubles were popular this year, with 6 boats entered. Champions this year were duo of Rhys John and Jennifer Walker, followed by Harriett Watson and father, Tony. Harriett was competing on her 18th birthday! Third place went to Karen Elliott and Amy Pankhurst.

Novice males as usual had the largest field of competitors with a fairly close finish between Arawa Canoe Club trio of Byron Mann finishing first with a time of 4hrs30mins35secs only 46second ahead of Jake Stapleton in second and Tim Lester 4hrs33min59secs in third place.


Novice females had a good turn out on the day, nineteen paddlers not to be put off by the wind. First place was Haley Richards of Arawa Canoe Club in a respectable time of 4hrs50mins32secs less than 10secs ahead of Shannon Edgar from Otago Kayak Racing Club. Michelle Knight took out third spot in 5hrs1min41secs.


Junior male category brought competitors from UCCC, Otago Kayak Racing Club and Tasman Bay Kayak Racing Club to battle for the region! First place was taken by Lachie Brownlie from UCCC 4hrs32min36sces, followed by James Munro in 4hrs38min14secs from Otago and Callum Wilkie, from Nelson in 4hrs47min53ecs.


Our only Junior female competitor Kate Brown from Timaru racing the Rasdex for the second year running managed a time of 5hrs44secs.


Talking to competitors after the race, there were a few tales to tell. Most impressively, Warren Proctor visiting from across the ditch from Fairfield Canoe Club, Victoria, Australia, Warren had an unexpected swim and lost contact with his boat. The next thing he realised as he looked upstream was his boat wrapped around a rock. Needless to say, he adopted some kiwi ingenuity, fixed his boat with good old duct tape and was able to finish the race.  Great to see the compulsory equipment being used as intended.


One novice male, who couldn’t be named, took the opportunity for an early freshen up and swam over the finish line with his boat!


Chris Stagg from Arawa Canoe Club had spent the time reflecting on how awesome it was seeing people of any age and ability come together and be able to participate in such an event. He felt it had been a great race for those wanting to go out hard and be competitive, but also great to spend time on the river with newly acquired friends and best buddies alike!


Which also resonated with some of our novice paddlers, Hannah Buchanan, pleased to complete the race with no swims and Katelyn Costello who remarked ‘it was great to have another run through the Gorge before Coast to Coast’ Although one of the last paddlers to finish, she had a big smile on her face every time we passed her in the safety boats.


Garth Spencer had enjoyed the challenge of the river and commented that ‘the Waimak is one of the most stunning stretches of river paddling for me, and quite a technical piece of water with braids that change with the seasonal flow. There are so many paddling disciplines in NZ including sprints, surfski, marathon etc. but I’d really like to encourage more paddlers across the spectrum to give this one a go. It’s a wonderfully well-run event by Arawa Canoe Club, a great feeder into the Coast to Coast, and it would be awesome to see more Jafa’s down next year!’ -Thanks Garth!


So, lets spread the word! -hopefully now with the addition of NZ Paddler Series we may see even more competitors from across the country take part next year.

Full results link : https://www.webscorer.com/race?raceid=122484

Big thanks to our sponsors, we could not have done this without your support and finally congratulations to our organising committee for putting on a truly successful and challenging event.