Usually the week before a race I am checking the wind forecast 3 times a day and changing my plans each time the wind changes.
As it turns out April in Auckland is pretty consistent and 7 days out the forecast was 15knt westerlies and it didn't change right up till race day.
The course was set on the Wednesday which took away a few pre-race nerves but there was still plenty to "over-think" and worry about.
With a few double ski's in the race my strategy was to jump on ones wash for the first 4km and then hammer it after turning the corner in the down wind. This masterful plan was thrown into disarray at the the race briefing when it was ruled that you could only wash-ride on matching craft. Apparently a few years back an enterprising paddler jumped on a ferry wash which forced the race organisers to put a bunch of rules in place.
The generally accepted rule for surf ski starts is be ready for anything as the gun will go at any time. I foolishly forgot this and was made to pay for thinking because the race was so well organised the start would go exactly to plan.
At the race briefing they said we would get a 10min warning before the start, the starter then gave us a 2min warning but at the same time Jeremy Kugglejin (wannabe race director) yelled out 1min till start.
Who knows exactly when the gun went but the school of hard knocks just dished out a severe lesson - one that won't be forgotten quickly.
The start of the race was quite sheltered and pretty flat but we were soon into some substantial side chop. This quickly spread the field out with the experienced ocean paddlers pulling away from the rest of the feild.
After turning into the harbor it was 18km of wind and waves at your back, and you could start to get a bit of rhythm going. There was plenty of iconic Auckland scenery the whole way - under the harbor bridge, past the sky tower and the navy base before turning around North Head.
Heading for Home:
Once around North Head there were two options for the last 5km back to Takapuna beach: Keep in close out of the wind, a shorter course over the shallow reef or stay out in the channel taking the long path around the reef but getting some good assistance from the currents.
Without comparing GPS co-ordinates its hard to say what course was faster but my guess is staying out paid higher dividends.
Given the number of awards being given out at the King/Queen of the Harbor prize-giving you wouldn't have felt out of place in black tie formal attire.
Not only is it NZ's premium surfski race, it also doubles as the CRNZ Ocean Racing National Title. Its also the first leg of the "World Surfski Series" and as the last race of summer it included the prize-giving for the NZ Paddler Series.
All this pressure could crush some event organisers but Garth and Danika put on the most professional event I have competed in this year.
Well done to you both for a great event and awesome weekend!!
For the official race report check out the Pacific Ocean Paddlers website