Mauritius Ocean Classic 2012 - Sporty's Challenge

Thursday, 28 June 2012 05:14 | Written by 
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Not a bad sight to wake up to.... Not a bad sight to wake up to....

Island Paradise!”  Sure it’s a cliché, but in paddling terms, you can’t get away from it – good food, good company, great paddling, awesome organisation.  It really is paradise.

Boat Prep

First item on the agenda (after a mighty breakfast) – claim your boat and set it up.  I’ve never seen so many Swordfish – Fenn Kayaks have sponsored this race for two seasons now and have built up a stock of nearly 100 boats, which are stored here on the island to be used for the race. 

I’d brought my trusty elliptical rudder from home and after fitting that to my ski, I joined the throng of other paddlers for a test drive on the lagoon.

Paddling

Crystal clear, warm water... oh yes!

Downwind and back

Some 30 paddlers then did a gentle tap down the coast escorted by Dawid Mocke and Barry Lewin (and a vigilant rescue boat from the hotel).  We headed out in the turbulent riptide through the channel and out beyond the reef into the open sea.  There wasn’t much wind, but with a fetch of several thousand km, you don’t need much breeze to kick up the runs.

The air temperature here is a cool 23C or so – but it’s humid and my heart rate spiked to 160+ as soon as I dug in to catch a wave.  When you’re paddling at almost the same speed as the wind, you start overheating very quickly.

6km up the coast and we turned in through the gap in the reef.

“The wave can be quite surprising here,” said Dawid.  “You can catch a wave if you want to, but I wouldn’t…”

Guess who got caught on the inside?  Looking back I spotted one of those “surprising” waves and had to execute a speedy scuttle to the left to avoid being smeared on the coral reef.  “Why are you always in the wrong spot?” came from the bemused Mocke.

A relaxed cruise back inside the reef followed – and then it was time for beer and lunch.

Le Morne beach

The beach near the finish - Le Morne in the distance.

Tripping to the finish

Checking out the finish

Later we caught the bus to the race finish – another batch of paddlers including Jasper Mocke, Hank McGregor, Matt Bouman and Barry Lewin had left to paddle to the finish at Le Morne.

“Ease of use” is a feature of this event: as each paddler reached the beach, his ski was immediately taken by the shore crew, rinsed down and packed onto the trailer to be taken back to the hotel.  Outstanding organization.

Trailer full of skis

Before you blink, your ski's loaded up and on the way back to the start

Home for dinner

Another advantage that this race enjoys is that almost all the paddlers stay in the same place – so you get to meet like-minded people from all over the world, whether it’s the Geriatski crew from Durban, or the Sydney-based Fat Paddler.  (Now there’s an interesting character.  A survivor of the 2002 Bali Bombing and two extreme motoring accidents, Sean Smith, took up paddling to live – literally.  He gave me a copy of his book, The Fat Paddler, and by midnight I’d devoured half of it.  It’s a good read.)

At dinner I was sitting with a restaurateur from California, a mad paddler from East London and a world champion from Cape Town…  By the end of the meal we’d sorted US politics, gun control, shark chumming and how to save the planet.  Awesome.

Pre-briefing

Pre-briefing video as the sun goes down

Briefing

Anton takes us through the race course for the Sporty's Downwind Challenge

 


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Sporty’s Downwind Challenge

Today’s short race is from Tamassa to Le Morne – a distance of some 16km.  We’re hoping for a little more wind than yesterday.  The open ocean swell has gone down and the period is reduced so the Le Morne channel should be pretty benign (in previous years it’s been sphincter-tightening big).

(Sporty - Keith Anderson - was a legend in surfski paddling and Anton paid tribute to his extraordinary achievements.  Amoung other things, Sporty raced the annual Round Mauritius Yacht Race - and circumnavigated the island faster than they did... in a surfski.)

Forecast

The main race is of course on Saturday.  We don’t know what time yet, but I’ll be lurking at or near the finish in constant communication with a couple of spotters and typing frantically live commentary…

Forecast

Saturday's looking good

Bring it on!


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