Race report - Winter Series 1 at Barwon Heads

First of the winter series races - for 2018 and for Barwon Heads - was held Sunday 6 May. Great location - beach start, pub finish - and well done Barwon Heads Canoe Club and volunteers on organising their first race.

The report below was written from a canoeist's perspective - we had 3 canoeists competing from FCC - Stephen, Rowan and Tony.  In kayaks, we had fantastic numbers from Trinity (a "full house" on their trailer!) and Em from Strathy as well as Con and Alan all representing FCC.

On the downside, however, the wind and tide were not particularly canoe friendly. In fact, I suspect if God made Canoes on day 8, then went for a paddle at Barwon Heads on day 9, it may just explain the creation of kayaks. At least it could well be why rudders were invented. After something around 17km most of which seemed to be going sideways (50+ strokes on the left hand side, 2 quick strokes on the right to try to unwind the bod) with the wind and the tide seeming to be forever working against us, the Hosi was no longer as popular with me as it started out…

All canoes started in the second start - 8 singles and 2 doubles. We had a reasonable wait while the starter tried to get us all (23 boats I think) to line up - pretty hard with a howling outgoing tide which threatened to cause us to get to know the “Seachange” bridge a little too well. A quick 400m leg up to the pier and then back down to the start line 2 buoy turn. Both of these turns interesting given the howling tide - turns ok in the Hosi but the J200/J203 brigade had a much harder time. I managed to sneak past Stephen in his J203 at both of those turns - but that was pretty much the last I’d see of him, he was in awesome form.

Headed up the main leg which was supposedly about 3.5km long if you took the shortest route, but that would have involved mangroves, water that was about 100mm deep, a large bunch of ibis and going straight. I’d thought that this would be a great day to be rudderless - able to sneak across the shallow bits - but I’d not realised that any sneaking in a canoe today involved taking a crablike sideways approach given wind and tide. 50 strokes on the left, loud cursing as I realised that sweep strokes on the left were insufficient to stop me heading for the hills (well, the left hand bank anyway), so “quick” rudder stroke on the right followed by a less quick J on the right, a few more curses, then back to paddling on the left again. Barwon Heads has a really well marked channel, with large buoys and timber posts, so knowing where to go was never a problem - just getting there…

Eventually, made it up to the top buoy, with Stephen now well ahead. Tony and Stefan not far behind in their River Rats, still battling against the current and the rapidly increasing headwind. Then Alex B in his J203 and Ash in his resplendent red J200. For an unfortunately brief time, paddling downstream was beautiful, like normal river paddling - tailwind, tail current, paddling on both sides - what not to like? Then the wind came back to the side and the Hosi’s two “sails” came in to their own and my crablike progression started anew. And the outgoing tidal current - could no longer feel it, it just felt swirly…

Arnie and Karlie were paddling well in their Carrs heading up to the top buoy, Karlie after having rescued a kayaker just after the start. Both also finding the sideways shuffle tough. Michelle and Ray had the Harrison going nicely, unfortunately Darren and Jodi had to pull out.

Finally reached the bottom twin buoys and the half way mark - bit of a tussle with a kayaker who didn’t want to leave any space for a canoe to get around the buoy - and back in to the 50 on the left, quick ish correction on the right (and occasional almost stopping correction …) progression up the course.

The second lap lap I suspect was a repeat of the first, but the brain had fortunately gone on holiday for much of it - so far on holiday that I started singing variants of "599 green bottles". The kayakers on the course were doing things tough as well, with many having swims, particularly around the buoys near the start given the tidal pull. After finishing the second long lap we had another short lap - interesting addition these short laps at start and finish and I think perhaps a great idea, making a marathon race into a bit more of a spectator sport.  I'd be interested to know what the spectators and other paddlers thought too.

Finished the race at least a km behind Stephen and got to watch the remaining long distance single kayaks finish - Tony P coming in second TC1, Stefan not far behind. Alex B was finishing really strongly but just as he was on his final short lap, the wash from a speedboat tipped him over. Fast recovery saw him finish just ahead of Ash but Stefan sneaked past while Alex was enjoying a dip in the salt water.

Tough, slow race. Average speed not much over 8km/hr. But great to have 12 of us in canoes braving Barwon Heads’ first race.

Race results are here on webscorer.  FCC Results:

- Div 4: 16.4km K1 - second Leo Lazarotto 

- Div 5: 16.4km K1 - fifth Jack Harpin.  Robbie Burns, Nathan Jones

- Div 7: 9.0km K1 - 3rd Alan Daley.  Con Toronis

- Div 8 (U18): 9.0km K1 - 2nd Tom Bowman, 3rd Seb Ryder.  Mason Lewis, Em Toner

- Div 9 (U14): 9.0km K1 - 1st Kevin Dong

- Div 10 (U12): 2.4km - Sam Crichton, Wil Toland, Ed Beckwith, Justin Kwong, Marcus Woon

- Canoes 16.4km: UC1: first Stephen Routley TC1M: first Rowan Doyle, second Tony Payne

Cleansing drink in the pub afterwards not a bad way to finish things. Next time ... hmmm ... definitely need mozzie repellent. Less wind and tide would be nice - or perhaps as one of the canoe paddlers suggested, it's a good place to learn to race OC.

Photo by George Vartabedian: Rowan, seriously considering a portage instead of more sideways paddling on the Barwon River.