Rasdex Classic River Race
Photo credit - Bruce Leslie & Eliza Barltrop
Saturday 16th of January saw the 31st running of the Rasdex Classic River Race. The Topsport Kayaking Safety Team lead by Len Smyth had spent the week leading up to the event on the river in preparation for race day. Spirits were high with the early forecast suggesting a stunning week with Saturday looking picture perfect. The river was low at 44 cumex, making braid choice above Gooseberry Stream critical for those looking for a top finish. The low flow made many of the features less challenging however there were still a few that demanded skill and respect. The Otarama Rock at the 50km mark was an optional portage and saw its fair share of swims for the day. The bluff at Horseshoe Bend also needed good skill to negotiate and saw about 20% of the field swim here.
The Open Men were first away and everyone needed to stand clear, there was some serious firepower in this group. The field was full of depth with the prestigious title being perused by more than a few. The game plan as usual, to follow local legend Sam Manson quickly unfolded. Manson set the pace and led the way through the top braids and the Gorge. Nearing Woodstock Dougal Allan (below) put in a surge and was able to move past Manson to take the lead. His pace was hot and he paddled on to win the race and post the fastest time of the day in 3:52:54. Manson was second in 3:56:16 and Sam Newlands third in 3:58:18 holding off Ryan Kiesanowski and Steven Armstrong.
The Open Women started next and once again competition was hot. Fiona Dowling, Elina Ussher, Kathryn Bunckenburg and Alex Huffadine all looking for a top result. Olivia Spencer-Bower (below) was also on the start line after recently becoming a new mum. Olivia knows how to win this race with 4 Classic titles to her name already. Dowling led off the start line and set the pace for the race. She steamed through the Gorge leaving the rest to chase. Spencer-Bower made her move challenging for the lead at Deer Print Cove. Dowling unable to match her pace had to watch her pull away. Spencer-Bower came home in 4:20:23 to take the fastest female time for the day. Dowling was second in 4:22:22 and Elina Ussher was third in 4:27:18.8
The Veteran Men were next to set off and it seemed like they were racing for second place this year. Sven Zaalberg had won each of the Prologue Races convincingly and was the strong favourite to take out this class. He did so in an impressive time of 4:15:55.7. Hamish Pepper was second in 4:20:57.6 and Hayden Pratley rounded out the podium in third spot in 4:23:18.0.
The Classic Men had the next start wave and Paul Massie lead from start to finish. Paul is no stranger to finishing on top and paddled outstandingly well to finish up 8th overall. He won the category in a very quick time of 4:05:47. Stephen Bennett was second in 4.16.38 and Tony McGuire had a great paddle coming back from prolonged injury to take the third spot in a time of 4.18.01.
The Veteran and Classic Women were on the water next. Rachel Smack quickly moved to the front of the field with a strong sprint off the line. She got away to an early lead but it wasn’t long before Katie Cambie took control of the race. Cambie knows the river better than most and was a welcome sight to many as she moved through the field in the braids above Gooseberry Stream. Paddlers were quick to follow where they could. Cambie crossed the line in 4:21:57. Rachel Smack held her second place for the day to finish 8.16 minutes back with Claire Le Grice in third. The Classic Class saw Jenni Blyleven cross the line with another win. Jenni had won all the prologue events in this class making her the one to beat. She paddled away to the win with Paulette Birchfield in second place and Anne Frankland in third.
Then it was time for the juniors and double kayaks to set off. Tiaan Mckinnel won the Male Junior Class in a classy time of 4:29:36. Liam Walker came home for second in 4:33:32 just ahead of Sam King in third. The Female Junior Class saw Zoe MacClure take the win in a time of 4:45:26 ahead of Natalie Peoples who finished in 5:15:55. The Double Class saw a record number of entries with 11 of them taking to the water. Team Hokitika posting the fastest time of the day for the tandems.
The Novice field were last to set off. These two classes are lead by a Guide from Topsport Kayaking. Those wishing for extra support, are able to follow the guide down the river until they are feeling more comfortable to paddle on alone. The top novice men needed none of that however and went from the gun. Travis Brown took line honours in 4:29:03. Edward Hobson was second in 4:33:03 and David Scarf an impressive third.
In the Female Class Matilda Lawrence paddled to victory in a time of 4:36:59. Caitlin Ruddle was second five minutes back in 4:41:49 and Adele Macgregor third in 4:43:17.
A new edition to the Rasdex Classic River Race this year, was the introduction of a trophy to acknowledge the overall series winner for men and women. Points are calculated over the duration of the series with the Main Event earning double points. Congratulations to Jenni Blyleven who took out the women’s trophy and Sven Zaalberg earning the much coveted, Devern Burchett Memorial Trophy.
This race would not happen without the Arawa Canoe Club Classic River Race Committee. On behalf of all competitors, we would like to thank them for all their hard work in making sure this race gets better and better every year. Race Director Jennifer Johns and Safety Director Len Smyth have done an exceptional job this year ensuring the race ran so well.
Thank you to all our race sponsors. Will Edwards was lucky enough to walk away with a brand new Ruahine Shadow from Tim Taylor. Will has been using his Dad’s boat as he doesn’t have his own so no doubt this new boat will be a very welcomed edition to the family. Congratulations Will.