Arawa Canoe Club runs the Rasdex Classic River Race, and we are proud as to be part of it!
Here is a race report from FurtherFaster athlete Odelios Rüegg and some tips to help you learn from his mistakes!
"Tips for first timers learnt from my mistakes"
The Classic River Race is a must do iconic event for anyone who can or wants to learn how to kayak and is a great event in the lead up to the Coast to Coast. Held on the beautiful grade two Wamakariri River and put on by a fantastic crew that make this event safe and fun. So what can go wrong?
This year’s event for me was a case of Murphy’s Law. Getting to the start line I was a little scared of the windy forecast, but really excited to put a winter of kayaking into practice! Feeling confident, having recently been down several times without incident I thought I had this race in the bag.
Starting at the back of the open mens field, everything was looking up when we got the whistle to go! 400 metres into the race when the flow narrows onto the right hand bank I made my first mistake, trying to work my way forward through what was then a large group of tightly packed together paddlers I decided to try my luck on the outside of the flow… then my race ended.
All of the sudden I felt a bang at the back of my boat and I was spinning out. Another paddler had gone straight over the back of my boat pushing the nose into an eddy and I was helplessly at the mercy of the river. All the other paddlers now found the tail of my boat in their way and one after another they crashed over it (and as I’d soon realize over my rudder).
By the time I’d sorted myself out (yes… I may have had a wee swim as a result) the field was well and truly out of site! As I navigated the braids leading towards the rock gardens and the gorge I realized I was having to rely heavily on my edges and paddling to steer. While far from ideal, I was able to navigate my way to the third rock garden, then when in trying to push my footplate I found my foot flying forward without resistance and next second I was underwater! After sorting myself out I realized not only was the rudder cord snapped but the rudder was loose in its bracket hence the trouble steering.
After some help from the awesome safety officials at the rapid and Richard Ussher (who was paddling through behind the race) I was able to get going again, despite still having a lose hanging rudder. I soon came across my last chance to pull out of the race before the gorge, but I liked the idea of following Richard Ussher and seeing his lines.
The gorge was a mission of using all of my edging and railing abilities to keep the boat moving forward and despite spinning out several times and losing site of Richard, I had begone to catch the back field of the race. I made it out to Woodstock absolutely shattered and over it… but was hoping the last section out of the gorge would be easier to navigate so I kept on racing.
Turns out by this point the wind had well and truly picked up and was in full force! So it was anything but easier as me. My boat got blown around over the final stretch but I did make it to the much anticipated finish line!
A few bits of advice you can take away from my mistakes!
- Race the prologues! These are a fantastic series of events leading up to the big day to test yourself against Canterbury’s best paddlers or to make it down the river for the first time in a safe environment.
- Check you have all your gear the night before, then check again! Yes, I may have been that person that turned up to a kayak race without a paddle! Oops…
- Get amongst the people and make friends, helps when you are silly enough to do the above but lucky enough to know someone that’ll lend you their paddle!
- Practice your river skills! Goes without saying really but speaking from experience when you break your rudder in the first 400metres of a race it helps to be able to navigate rapids and bluffs with your edges!
TopSport guide Sam Manson shooting the breeze on a windy day by the river..
To find out more about the Rasdex River Race Series check out the Arawa Canoe Club website.