Steelcase Dragon Run 2011 - Biggest Yet

Friday, 11 November 2011 08:06 | Written by 
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Dragon Run 2010 Dragon Run 2010 Credits: Graham Uden

This year’s Steelcase Dragon Run, set to take place on 19 November in Hong Kong, will have the most competitive international field of surfski paddlers yet.

The Dragon Run, now in its fifth year, is a 25km open ocean race from Clearwater Bay to Stanley Bay in Hong Kong, by way of Nine Pins Island and Cape D’Aguilar.

The wind almost always blows from the NE, and the three legs of the course offer varying degrees of challenging, technical, downwind conditions.  The scenery is spectacular: Nine Pins Island comprises sheer rocks standing vertically out of the sea while the swells crash against the sheer Cape D'Aguilar cliffs and the reflected waves create a maelstrom of water...  

Steelcase Dragon Run Course

The Course: the wind usually blows from the NE

Dragon Run 2007

Dawid Mocke won the first Dragon Run in 2007 - and went on to win it in 2008 and 2010

Dicing in 2009

Shannon Eckstein and Dawid Mocke dicing in the 2009 race.  Eckstein won.

 

 Here’s a rundown of some of the top Australian and South African paddlers:

  • Hank McGregor (SA): won the ICF world marathon championships in Singapore a few weeks ago, after taking numerous river titles in South Africa as well as the Dunlop Surfski World Cup in Durban earlier this year.  This is one of the few races McGregor hasn't won.
  • Dawid Mocke (SA): Defending Dragon Run Champion (having also won the race in 2007 and 2008).  Mocke leads the 2011 Ocean Paddler World Rankings having won the US Surfski Champs and the Southern Shamaal Mauritius Ocean Classic earlier this year.  He came third in the Perth Doctor and third in Dunlop Surfski World Cup in Durban.
  • Tim Jacobs (Australia) won the Perth Doctor in January. TJ has dominated the current Oceanseries races in Sydney, winning all three of the events so far.
  • Jeremy Cotter (Australia) has been on the podium in Hong Kong every time he’s race: third in 2008; second in 2009 and 2010.
  • Jasper Mocke (SA): The younger Mocke is on fine form, having beaten his brother twice to take the lead in the Discovery Sunglass Hut series in Cape Town, South Africa.
  • Shannon Eckstein (Australia): shock winner of the Dragon Run in 2009 in his first ever long distance surfski race.  Current (and three time) World Ironman Surf Lifesaving Champion.
  • Sean Rice (SA): a relative newcomer, Rice has won numerous international races including the 2011 Norwegian ASKR race (beating Dawid Mocke), the NY Mayor’s Cup (twice) and EuroChallenge in Spain.
  • Tom Schilperoort (SA): trains with Dawid Mocke and Sean Rice in Cape Town – came second at Molokai this year being beaten only by Clint Robinson.  Also beat Mocke in a Cape series race a few weeks ago.
  • Grant van der Walt (SA): former ICF junior world marathon champion, van der Walt trains with Hank McGregor in Durban.
  • Ben Allen (Aus): won the 2010 Dubai Shamaal in an intense flat-water battle against Dawid Mocke and Sean Rice.
  • Bruce Taylor (Aus): came second in the 2011 Perth Doctor having lead the race until the final wave into the beach, when he was pipped at the post by Tim Jacobs.
  • David Rhodes (Aus): former Olympian (K2 1000m, 2004).  “He’s the dark horse for sure,” said training mate Jeremy Cotter.  “He’s paddling well and knows how to perform in big races.”
  • Michael Booth, Cory Hill, Dean Beament and Mark Anderson (Aus) are all experienced elite paddlers and will vie for the “pointy end” of the race.
  • Dean Gardiner (Aus) and Oscar Chalupsky (SA) who have 20 Molokai victories between them will also be lining up in Clearwater Bay at the start.  Rumor has it that Chalupsky will be paddling a new ski with Olympic medalist Greg Barton (USA).

Oscar Chalupsky and Dean Gardiner

Last year Gardiner and Chalupsky lined up beginners' skis (Gardiner won!)

Australia v South Africa

The rivalry between the two great surfski nations is intense – and no more so than at the Dragon Run…

2009 - Australia triumphs

In 2009 Shannon Eckstein (Aus) won the Dragon Run in his first long distance surfski race ever.  The Aussies dominated the race, taking second (Jeremy Cotter) and third (Tim Jacobs) places as well.

In 2010 Dawid Mocke took his third title – but the next four places were claimed by the Aussies (Cotter, Rhodes, Allen and Taylor respectively).

Arguably from a country perspective then, honors are even – let the 2011 combat begin!

Surfski.info top 5

My pick for the top five?

  • Hank McGregor
  • Dawid Mocke
  • Jeremy Cotter
  • Shannon Eckstein
  • Tim Jacobs

Not necessarily in that order!

Women’s Race

With South African ace Michele Eray having to withdraw due to a persistent injury, the race will see a duel between Aussie Ruth Highman and South African Alexa Cole.  Cole has been off the paddling circuit for a couple of years, but came back with a bang a few months ago, taking 5th at the ICF World Marathon Championships in Singapore and then dominating the women’s section of the Discovery Sunglass Hut series in Cape Town.

The Dark Horse in this race is Kamini Jain, the Libyan born Canadian Olympic sprint kayaker.

Alexa Cole

Alexa Cole - on her way to win the 2008 Durban Surfski World Cup

The most International of the International races

But let’s not forget the paddlers from Germany, the USA, China, Canada, Singapore, Japan, Russia, New Zealand, Guadeloupe, Holland, Tahiti, Reunion, Portugal, France, the UK and Hong Kong who will also be competing in this, one of the most international of the surfski “majors”!  (At last count, over 110 paddlers are flying in from around the world, making this the biggest Dragon Run yet.)

Having covered this race for the last four years, I can safely say that it’s one of the most popular events on the calendar.  The paddlers report that conditions are usually interesting i.e. there’s a significant portion of technical, downwind paddling; the length of the race is dead right (approx. 25km); the organization is outstanding and the venue is fascinating.

The race has been suggested as the first ICF Ocean Racing World Championship venue…  watch this space.

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