We'll get to that paddler list in a moment - but a quick look at the weather forecast shows that this year's race is likely to be a cracking, although technical, downwind run. The Hong Kong Observatory says (and windguru agrees) that there's going to be an 18-20kt N to NE breeze blowing on Saturday.
"At this stage the conditions look good," said race director Jon Dingley a couple of days ago. "And if the wind can move a shade more towards an ENE direction, rather than the direct North, then it will be almost perfect."
OK, so they've got "almost perfect" conditions. Who's going to be taking advantage of them?
Elite of the Elite
With one or two notable exceptions (like Caine Eckstein, Matt Bouman and Oscar Chalupsky) nearly all the "names" in international surfski paddling are there.
South Africa v Australia
The South African men include:
Dawid Mocke (Fenn): The only paddler to win this race. In 2007, he beat Lewis Laughlin by 55sec; in 2008 he beat Clint Pretorius by 13sec in one of the hardest races of his career. He's had a busy international year, highlights being (apart from the birth of his son, Samuel - he beat Cotter there) 2nd in San Francisco, 3rd in Perth, 3rd in Mauritius and 5 th in Durban.
Clint Pretorius (Fenn): second last year. Clint has had a brilliant year, winning the Dunlop World Cup in Durban in July; second in Mauritius behind Hank McGregor.
Hank McGregor (Epic): Hank hasn't paddled the Dragon Run. And that makes him more dangerous! So far this season he's won three out of six races that he's entered (Molokai, Mauritius and Cape Point), coming second in Plett and third in PE. His only real disappointment was Perth where he came 11th.
Jasper Mocke (Fenn): Jasper has taken a while to recover from a year that saw him doing very little training or paddling - he competed in the Coolangata Gold, coming a creditable 9th and surprising some Aussies by coming 3rd, in the Bondi to Watson's Bay race a minute behind Murray Stewart. In the recent 20km Discovery Downwind race in Cape Town, South Africa, he came 2nd by a mere 12 seconds behind Dawid. Jasper just won a year's sponsorship from Hymax Telecomms in South Africa and is on fire to prove himself.
Sean Rice (Think): The Team Think star has been on fire since the New York Mayor's Cup race, which he won in dramatic weather conditions. His results this year also include a third at the EuroChallenge in Spain (beating Busto on flat water); second in Chicago and sixth at the US Surfski Champs. Whenever the water has been really big, though, he hasn't shined to the same extent - his eighteenth position at the Dunlop World Cup in Durban being an example.
Tom Schilperoort (Fenn): The Cape Town student hasn't travelled as much as his training partner Rice, but tends to fire in big conditions - achieving 6th position in Durban, 12th in Mauritius and 5th in Spain.
Barry Lewin (Custom Kayaks): Durban-based paddler Lewin came 3rd in Chicago, but his best result of the year is arguably a fine 4th place in Mauritius behind McGregor, Pretorius and Mocke. He came 7th at the US Champs and 13th in Durban.
Daryl Bartho (Fenn): The former Cape Point winner (2007) has been away, working overseas but, "Bartho is back" and has been training with a strong group of Durban paddlers. Hong Kong and Dubai mark his first foray back into international paddling in two years.
Steve Woods (Fenn): Woody is something of a dark horse - he won the 2008 Phatwater Challenge in the US and has been hovering around the top ten this year (10th in the Cape Point Challenge; 10th in Durban; 9th in PE and 16th at the Perth Doctor.
Scott Rutherfoord (Fenn): Rutherfoord came 5th at the Cape Point Challenge and 12th in Durban. He came 2nd behind Hank McGregor in last year's 250km 4day Southern Shamaal.
The South African women surfski paddlers are not thick on the ground in Hong Kong... The squad comprises only one - but what a paddler she is:
Michele Eray (Epic): The Plett based Olympian has won every race she's entered this year. That includes Cape Point, Plett, PE, The EuroChallenge in Spain, the Mauritius Ocean Classic and the Dunlop World Cup in Durban. Is she favorite to win in Hong Kong and Dubai? You betcha.
Katie Pocock (NZ) (Epic) might dispute that however -she's won every race she's entered this year - and that includes Perth, Molokai and her hometown race, the King of the Harbour... Can't wait to see these two face up to each other - both in Hong Kong AND Dubai...
Jeremy Cotter (Fenn): The Dragon Run is definitely a race that Cotter wants to win. In last year's race, he took the Fenn Hotspot, and lead for much of the way before Dawid Mocke managed to pass him. He ended up with a sticky rudder and third place. He's had a pretty good year internationally - beating Mocke wherever they've met, coming 2nd to Clint Robinson in Perth in January and winning the US Surfski Champs in San Francisco in August. He had a nightmare in Spain where a 24hour stomach bug had him man down on the day of the race. Back home he came third in the 20 Beaches, but has won both the first two races in the Fenn Cup Series in Sydney. This is one hungry hombre who has his sights on Mocke and McGregor
Tim Jacobs (Epic): Jacobs of course won last year's Dubai Shamaal in fine style. This year he came 9th in Perth, 2nd at Molokai behind Hank McGregor (paddling almost the entire race on his own) and has won three out of four Ocean Series races in Sydney (he didn't paddle the fourth). Cotter beat Jacobs in both the Fenn Cup races however...
Shannon Eckstein (Fenn): Coolangatta Champ Caine Eckstein's brother has burst onto the LD paddling scene this year and is tucked one behind Cotter and Jacobs in the Fenn Cup standings.
Tony Schumacher (Think): Schumaker came 8th in San Francisco, 2 places behind Think teammate Sean Rice (SA). In the Bondi Race, he came in a couple of seconds behind Jasper Mocke.
Dean Gardiner (Fenn): If the runs are technical (as they're likely to be in Hong Kong), don't rule Deano out. His brilliant 3rd place in San Francisco, just goes to prove it - he was lying in about tenth position at the turning buoy having battled into the wind and flew down the bay to come in behind Cotter and Mocke.
Who else in the Aussie squad will be up there? Difficult to say, but there's an astonishing array of talent on display including: Brendon Rice, Dean Beament, Kirk Tutt, Mark Anderson and Michael Clues.
The full list of International Entries so far includes:
|Filip Andersson||OC - SING|
Live Commentary on www.surfski.info
We will be covering the race live (at 4am our time!). The race starts at 10am local time in Hong Kong and we'll be "on air" about half an hour before that.For more info on the race, go to the website at http://www.thedragonrun.com.hk/