2014 Mauritius Ocean Classic - Preview

Saturday, 07 June 2014 13:10 | Written by 
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Dawid Mocke - three-pete at the 2013 MOC Dawid Mocke - three-pete at the 2013 MOC Credits: Rob Mousley

Want an indication of a popular race?  Three months before the 2014 Mauritius Ocean Classic, there were already 100 paddlers entered.  Right now, three weeks to go, there are over 150 and entries have closed (apart from anything else there are no more rental skis on the island!)  But why is it so popular?

Tropical Island

First of all, Mauritius is a tropical island, with everything that tropical islands normally have:

  • Sunshine (duh!)
  • Spotless, white, sandy beaches complete with palm trees
  • Crystal clear, warm water, complete with brightly colored corals and tropical fish
  • Friendly locals (hmm... the surfers?  Maybe not so much!)

Ok, that’s the basics covered.

Tropical Paradise

Tropical Paradise: the view 1km from the race finish

Good Company

90% of the paddlers stay at the 4-star Tamassa Resort; so you’re surrounded by like-minded paddling people and you’re likely to have breakfast at the same table as the greats of the sport.  Folks like: 

  • Dawid Mocke (3-time MOC winner and 4-time World Series champ)
  • Jasper Mocke (current leader of the Surfski World Series)
  • Sean Rice (2013 ICF Ocean Racing World Champion)
  • Oscar Chalupsky (12-time Molokai champ and arguably the best downwind paddler of all time)
  • Dean Gardiner (9-time Molokai champ and, if you’re an Aussie, arguably the best downwind paddler of all time!)

Hank McGregor, two-time MOC winner and winner of the Molokai Challenge for the second time a few weeks ago, won’t be racing…   He’ll be at home with his wife Pippa as they await the first of the next generation of McGregor paddling champs.

Romance

The tropical sunsets have the power to change lives...

Resort sports

For the families, and those bored of paddling, there’s plenty to do on the premises: snorkeling, sailing, wind-surfing, water skiing.  (We won’t mention the pedal boats: last year Dawid and Nikki Mocke set off with their two youngsters and, unable to pedal back against the wind and current had to be rescued!  The rescue boat ran out of fuel and a sorry procession of rescue boat towing rescue boat towing pedal boat arrived back at the beach; young Sam Mocke was delighted.)

Mockes being rescued!

2013 MOC Champs hard at work!

Getting out of the resort is easy: take a complementary mountain bike…  and even there, you have a choice of an easy ride east or west on the flat or a hectic uphill into the mountains.

Paddling

But, clearly, most of us come for the paddling. 

Now in its sixth year, the MOC has always been an easy-to-use event for the paddlers: 

  • Coaching with Dawid Mocke, Dean Gardiner, Oscar Chalupsky and Barry Lewin in the morning
  • A downwind run from Tamassa to Le Morne in the afternoon – a bus is laid on to take better-halves to the finish, with a trailer to pick your ski up.  (Your ski lives on the lawn in front of the hotel when it’s not being used.)
  • The window period opens on Thursday and the main race could be run any time from Thursday to Saturday.  The main race takes precedence of course, but there’s a fun team relay race scheduled also that runs from Tamassa to Baie du Cap and back.

Le Morne Mountain

Le Morne Mountain, which marks the infamous channel through the reef

The Racing

In the five year history of the race so far it’s been a two-man affair:  Hank McGregor won the first two races in 2009 and 2010.  Since then though, it’s been Dawid Mocke all the way – he won in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

This year Mocke will have his hands full – his brother Jasper has been consistently faster than him in international races this year, and current ICF champ Sean Rice would love to take his first MOC title.  Then of course the Durban v Cape Town rivalry will be driving Durbanites Matt Bouman, Grant vd Walt, the Chalupskys as well as the Bartho brothers…

Brendan Rice and Will Bird will be flying the Aussie flag.

An equally tight Durban v Cape Town game will be on between the women as Capetonian and defending champion Nikki Mocke takes on Nicole Russell…  French champion Angie Mouden will also be in the mix.

Top Seeds

Men 

NameSkiSeedCountry
DAWID MOCKE FENN GLIDE CARBON 1 (defending champ) SOUTH AFRICA
JASPER MOCKE FENN SPARK CARBON 2 SOUTH AFRICA
SEAN RICE THINK 3 SOUTH AFRICA
MATT BOUMAN EPIC V14U 4 SOUTH AFRICA
GRANT VAN DER WALT EPIC V14U 5 SOUTH AFRICA
OSCAR CHALUPSKY EPIC V14 E 6 SOUTH AFRICA
WILL BIRD FENN SL Carbon 7 AUSTRALIA
BARRY LEWIN FENN GLIDE CARBON 8 SOUTH AFRICA
JEAN-LUC MAUVIS FENN GLIDE CARBON 9 SOUTH AFRICA
HERMAN CHALUPSKY EPIC V14U 10 SOUTH AFRICA
DEAN GARDINER FENN GLIDE CARBON 11 AUSTRALIA
DARYL BARTHO FENN ELITE CARBON 12 SOUTH AFRICA
BRETT BARTHO FENN ELITE CARBON 13 SOUTH AFRICA
BRENDAN RICE FENN SL CARBON 14 AUSTRALIA
TOM SCHILPEROORT FENN GLIDE CARBON 15 SOUTH AFRICA
JOEP VAN BAKEL FENN SL CARBON 16 NETHERLAND

Women 

NameSkiSeedCountry
NIKKI MOCKE FENN ELITE CARBON 1 (defending champ) SOUTH AFRICA
ANGIE MOUDEN FENN SL CARBON 2 FRANCE
NICOLE  RUSSEL FENN SPARK CARBON 3 SOUTH AFRICA
DANICA BARTHO FENN SPARK CARBON 4 SOUTH AFRICA
ROWENA COGHILL FENN ELITE CARBON 5 AUSTRALIA
SHARON ARMSTRONG CARBONOLOGY ZEST 6 SOUTH AFRICA
SAMANTHA MURRAY FENN SPARK CARBON 7 SOUTH AFRICA
ANNA CLIFFORD ARWIDI FENN SWORDFISH 8 SOUTH AFRICA
TERESA JOHNSON WHITE EPIC V10L 9 AUSTRALIA
TRACEY HORAN EPIC V10 L 10 AUSTRALIA
TRACY ANN APTHROPE EPIC V10 L 11 AUSTRALIA
VANESSA MERCER EPIC V10 L 12 AUSTRALIA
BELINDA LOGAN (O'SULLIVAN) EPIC V 10 13 AUSTRALIA

How Tough is the Race, Really?

It’s all about Le Morne: the reef pass under the Le Morne mountain has a reputation for eating inexperienced paddlers and spitting them out sans-skis on the inside – but really, although it is an adrenalin rush, you’re in no real danger:

  • The gap is huge – and they lay a marker (buoy or boat) to show you exactly where to go.
  • And if the conditions are outrageous to the point of being unsafe, the backup plan is to go around the corner to another gap called Ambulant, which is smaller and easier (and further!)
  • In some years, the inexperienced paddlers have been allowed to paddle inside the reef.

Listen to the experienced paddlers, listen to the race briefing, don’t take chances – and you’re be fine.

Riding the gap

Riding the wave at the Le Morne gap

And Other Things To Do

It’s been my privilege and good fortune to cover all but one of the MOC races – and I always enjoy my visits to the island.  Highlights have been:

  • Hiked the Black River Gorges National Park
  • Swum with wild dolphins in Tamarin Bay
  • Viewed the bizarre seven-sands near Chamarel
  • Snorkelled the pristine coral gardens of Blue Bay, near Mahebourg – the clarity of the water and condition of the coral is unbelievable
  • Visited the tiny island park on the Ile aux Aigrettes.  Here the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation have restored the flora and fauna to what would have been found on the island 400 years ago.  The famous Mauritian Pink Pigeon (dragged back from the brink of extinction) makes its home and can be seen here.

Sand Island

Sand Island on the eastern side of the island.  The snorkling in the crystal clear water is outstanding

And I haven’t even explored the north of the island yet (mostly resorts and shopping!)

SUPs

Gary van Rooyen of Coreban SUP has thrown his weight behind the event and there will be an official SUP race included in the MOC – they expect over 30 SUPS to be there.

This year the Mauritius Ocean Classic will play host to a Stand Up Paddle division for the first time. Coreban SUP International have put up $2,000 in cash plus some other spectacular prizes for the 25km event which promises to attract some of the world’s best stand up paddlers. Ivan van Vuuren who currently holds the record for the fastest recorded average speed on a downwinder looks to be one of the favorites, but well traveled Greg Bertish, a regular podium finisher will not allow Ivan to have it all his own way.

Veteran sea-dogs Gary van Rooyen and Pete Petersen should be in with a shout, or at worst fight it out for the masters prize.

Tarryn Kyte, SA's No.1 lady wave rider is looking to fit the event into her busy international circuit and will not flinch at passing the men on her way to Le Morne. At this stage, both Junior World champions, Dylan Frick and Ethan Koopmans are shuffling sponsorships to get to the event and, if they make it, will pose a serious threat to the front-runners.

Aside from the main race there will be daily downwinders, board demos and talks on paddling technique – and for the ladies and kids, a fun time in the sun, sea and sand. 

 


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