Downwind course adds needle to Durban Surfski World Cup
Friday, 27 June 2008
The organisers of the Durban Surf Ski World Cup have set a tough 33km race route starting at 8am on Sunday morning based on the expected arrival on Saturday night of a cold front bringing with it 15 knot South Westerly winds.
Race committee chair Butch Murray has confirmed that the race will start at Vetchie's Pier (Durban Underwater Club) from where the expected field of 200 paddlers will race one kilometre out to sea before turning north for the finish at Westbrook beach outside Tongaat.
In making the announcement Murray stressed that the decision was based on three considerations. Primarily the race intends to take the best advantage of the prevailing weather to offer the racers good downwind racing conditions, however he stressed that the contest had to be fair to all the visiting paddlers, and most importantly had to ensure the safety of every participant.
He also added that every participant would be expected to wear a lifejacket, and carry a leash and either a flare or a cellphone. Murray stressed that he and the safety committee will continue to monitor the approaching weather system and reserved the right to make further changes if the conditions dictated.
The announcement of the course was cautiously welcomed by the elite paddlers present at the media briefing in Durban on Friday morning.
Defending champion Oscar Chalupsky felt that the route was a demanding one as the initial section that crosses Durban Bay will be based on the best straight line course in the South Westerly conditions, while the latter section will be heavily influenced by strong currents running up and down the coast.
The 45 year old was pleased to hear that there will be significant downwind conditions for the race, as the calm seas that Durban enjoyed for most of the week would have severely hampered his chances of retaining the title, and his bid to win the 2008 World Series title.
"At 45, I'd love to win the World Series," said Chalupsky. "I don't have a lot of years left in me as a competitive paddler, and it would mean a lot to win the race and close out the World Series."
The Durban World Cup will see a fascinating race-within-a-race involving the three paddlers with a chance at taking the 2008 surfski.info World Series currently being headed by Oscar Chalupsky, from Tahitian Lewis Laughlan, with Capetonian Dawid Mocke just behind them.
Series organiser Rob Mousley pointed out that there were several permutations that would affect the final World Series rankings, should Chalupsky fail to finish ahead of his two challengers.
"If Lewis Laughlan wins and Oscar Chalupsky comes fourth or worse, Lewis will move to the top of the leader board and will be the World Series Champion for the 2007/2008 season," said Mousley.
"If Dawid Mocke wins the Durban World Cup, then Oscar Chalupsky must come eighth and Lewis Laughlan would have to come fifth or worse for Dawid Mocke to claim the World Series," Mousley added.
Mousley also confirmed that the top 40 craft will be monitored by lightweight GPS devices affixed to their craft enabling the crowd at the race base at DUC at Vetchies Pier to accurately watch the race develop. This will also be available on www.surfski.info
Australian ace Tim Jacobs was bullish about his compatriots chances in the downwind conditions, and repeated his belief that a number of them would race into the top five.
He also put pressure on the World Series organisers to look into modifying the structure of the rankings, saying that they did not equally favour all international paddlers.
The women's race looks set to be a straight duel between the two racers who provided a thrilling duel for second place in the recent Epic Molokai Challenge, Kiwi Katie Pocock and Capetonian Alexa Cole.
Cole is approaching the race with the same deceptively relaxed attitude that saw her snatch victory in the tough conditions that prevailed last year, while the bubbly Auckland fire-fighter Pocock is trying to match her casual approach, disguising what promises to be a ferocious tussle between two very talented paddlers.
"I'm not so sure I like the sound of 33km," said Pocock once the final course was announced. "It might be a little bit far, but if the conditions are good then it should be exciting. Alexa (Cole) and I raced each other the whole way on the Molokai so I am looking forward to another good tussle on the water with her."
The Durban Grand Prix will be preceded by a fun five-person Grand Prix relay event on Saturday, involving for paddlers and a swimmer, aimed at involving a broad spectrum of surf ski and lifesaving enthusiasts.