Twas the 9th of September and an impressive number of Lower North Island paddlers had cars loaded for the exciting new course of the Ruamahanga River Race. Unfortunately it wasn't to be with the weather gods packing a sad and filling the river to a level un-suitable for racing.
Like any good Wairarapa local Derek wasn't giving up and re-scheduled the event for labor weekend. Unfortunately for him many of the good keen paddlers had already booked holidays or were still recovering from the Motu challenge the week before which had a significant impact on participation levels.
Luckily for those who did make it down to the river the weather gods were clearly feeling guilty for stuffing up the first weekend and got their act together to turn on an awesome weekend with sunny blue skies, a light tail wind and medium flow in the river. You honestly couldn't ask for better.
Two of the big name competitors who did make it down were previous race winners Les Morris and Daniel Bremner whose river knowledge and skills are always going to make them competitive. Also posing as a likely candidate for a podium finish was Anne Cairns still fresh from her Rio Olympic campaign - the question on everyones mind was how would she feel paddling 28kms down a rollicking Wairarapa river compared to 200m of a calm Rio pond?
After a short but effective race briefing everyone was sensibly lined up (actually jam packed into a 5m wide stretch of river) ready to go. The gun went and Anne still in Olympic 200m mode was off like a cut cat. The rest of us expecting a leisurely afternoon cruise in the Wairarapa sunshine snapped into action and did everything we could to try and hang on.
As the race wound down the river the Wellington harbor paddlers showed their lack of experience in the rivers and soon resembled a pod of beached pilot whales shaking and flopping trying to get off the beach. The paddlers who cared less about scratches managed to shake and flop a little harder managed to make up a couple places by getting through the shallow section quicker as did the paddlers behind who saw the foolishness of those in front and made a right turn instead of a left.
Further down the river Anne slowly got overtaken by Jonathon Alsop (eventual winner) to finish up second with Daniel Bremner (last years winner) rounding out the podium in 3rd place.
Paddling however was the winner of the day with smiles all round.