Sprint Finish at 2019 Mauritius Ocean Classic

Tuesday, 02 July 2019 16:11 | Written by 
Rate this item
(1 Vote)
Cory Hill, Hank McGregor and Gordan Harbrecht round the point at Le Morne, on the way to the finish of the 2019 Investec Mauritius Ocean Classic Cory Hill, Hank McGregor and Gordan Harbrecht round the point at Le Morne, on the way to the finish of the 2019 Investec Mauritius Ocean Classic Credits: Rob Mousley Photography

As the three men rounded the point at Le Morne, “Flash” Gordan Harbrecht shouted, “Is it 16 or 18km for the race?” “Mate, you see that red object up ahead? That’s the finish!” Instead of the 3 or 4km that Harbrecht had expected, the line was only about 800m away – and the big German exploded into a sprint…

Downwind Week

The 2019 Mauritius Surfski Week always offers fabulous conditions for paddling, but this event had been spectacular. I arrived on the Monday evening, and paddled downwind every day – Tuesday was a fun mellow run, on Wednesday the wind was just that bit stronger and the waves a little bigger and Thursday saw us paddling in perfect conditions – 20kt and 2m swells in crystal clear 23C temperature water. Bliss.

downwind

Heading out on the daily downwind

Race Course

The daily downwind - and intended race course

Shuttle back to the Tamassa Resort, chill with the other paddlers at the burger bar… Eat, drink, socialize in the evening. Sleep, repeat!

Chatting to paddlers from Singapore, the Netherlands, Dubai, India, Germany, they all said the same thing: they’d all come for the warm water and downwind paddling – and they’d had exactly that.

Although some find it difficult to believe, life does stretch beyond paddling; there was plenty of surfing, sailing, running, fishing and diving happening. On the final day a group of us dived for nearly two hours with wild spinner and bottlenose dolphins on a reef in the open ocean off Le Morne. Outrageous experience. (And we saw a humpback whale on the way there.)

Dolphins

Diving with wild spinner dolphins - fabulous experience

FTL Relay Race

The day before the main event, some forty of the paddlers took part in a warm-up relay race: four teams of ten paddlers, start dismounted in deep water, 1km lap, GO!

Everyone managed the deep-water remount, both styles (sidesaddle and straddle) were used, some were more elegant that others… And there was a serious side to the exercise – if you couldn’t get back on your ski in the protected waters inside the reef, then you shouldn’t go outside into the deep!

FTL Relay

Hank McGregor (side-saddle), and Josh Fenn (straddle) demonstrate the two ways to remount!

Mauritius Relay

Hayley Nixon, dicing it up with Jenna Ward on the last lap (mother nature making a statement in the background)

Team Hayley Nixon ended up winning the relay – the world surfski champion dicing the last lap with fellow Durbanite Jenna Ward whose team took second place.

Investec Mauritius Ocean Classic (and ICF Ocean Racing World Cup)

Having been so kind to us all week, Mother Nature turned nasty on Saturday morning: overnight the swell had increased to over 3m and closed out the reef passes. Accompanied by a 25kt wind, the wave conditions meant that the escort boats couldn’t get out of the lagoon and the decision was reluctantly made to keep the race inside the reef.

A spring high tide meant that the paddlers could take direct lines across the shallow water – and the race became a 13.5km sprint. For much of the course, however, the water was anything but flat, the wind chop swirling with the tidal currents mixed with the incoming waves at each gap in the reef.

Race Day Course

Women’s Race

With the women starting ten minutes ahead of the men, Hayley Nixon burst off the line on what she knew would be a hectic, fast scramble to the finish.

Fellow Durban paddler Michelle Burn responded, and a tight group formed, Burn leading, Nixon and Yanda Morison (Aus) on either side and Jenna Ward (RSA) and Bonnie Hancock (Aus) bringing up the rear.

2019 MOC

Michelle Burn leads the front bunch past the Heritage Le Telfair resort, shortly after the start.

Moments later, Nixon and Burn broke away and it became a two-boat race as they diced, now following each other, now moving apart as they tried to find some advantage in the rough, swirly water.

2019 MOC

Jenna Ward (RSA) with Bonnie Hancock (Aus) on slip, with Yanda Morison (Aus) on the wide line

As they passed the gap in the reef at the Baie du Cap, Burn took a line closer to the reef and for the next few km lead the way along the coast. Nixon put her head down and half way to the point at Le Morne, had moved back into the lead. Burn made a last move before the turn, but had to face the last kilometer sprint with a 20 second deficit.

On the flat water, Nixon was not to be hunted down, and the women crossed the line, order unchanged.

“The field was hugely competitive with pedigree flat water paddlers like Jenna Ward, Yanda Morison and Bonnie Hancock in the mix.

“It was a cat and mouse battle with Michelle,” said Nixon, “I was stoked to take the win again.”

Hayley Nixon

The Investec Mauritius Ocean Classic women's champion - Hayley Nixon

Men’s Race

At the front of the men’s race, defending (and six-time previous) champion Hank McGregor knew that the threat would come either from current ICF Ocean Racing world champion Cory Hill (Aus) or German surfski champion Gordan Harbrecht. Also, new to Mauritius, but very much in contention was Cape Town surfski ace Nicholas Notten.

As they started, the German sprinter exploded into action; “Gordan went out hard from the start,” said Notten. “He was really, really strong.”

Notten managed to hang onto Harbrecht’s wave and the two men surged into the lead.

When Harbrecht finally eased off the pace, it was to find that Hill and McGregor weren’t far back and for the next 8km, Hill, Notten and Harbrecht traded positions, with the wily McGregor always on the slip, never letting any of them get away.

“Finally I came off the bunch,” said Notten. “The pace was just too much for me.”

When I spotted the three leaders rounding the point at Le Morne, McGregor was in the centre, with Harbrecht to his left and Hill to his right.

2019 MOC

Cory Hill (Aus), Hank McGregor (RSA) and Gordan Harbrecht (Ger) about to accelerate to the finish of the 2019 Investec Mauritius Ocean Classic.

At that was when Harbrecht, unfamiliar with the route, called out, asking how far it was to the finish.

“When Cory told him and he realized how close it was, he kicked,” said McGregor. “30 strokes, 40 stroke, he just didn’t stop…”

But McGregor was expecting the move and easily contained the German sprinter. “I had to keep my eye on Cory as well,” said McGregor. “The currents are different in the deeper channel where Cory was and I didn’t want to let him accelerate through.”

Complicating the picture, there were moored boats in the channel that were weaving back and forth in the current. McGregor didn’t know whether to go right or left of the obstacles, potentially allowing either one of his rivals to gain an advantage.

“But to my surprise, when I checked on Cory, he wasn’t there anymore, we’d dropped him,” he said.

So, in the end it came down to a relatively straightforward, marathon-like finish and although video shows a sprint, it was never likely that Harbrecht would get the better of the vastly experienced McGregor.

“It was a good race for me,” said Harbrecht. “And this is such a beautiful place.   I will be back, and the next time, I’ll be bringing more Germans with me!”

“I was stoked to take my 8th title,” said McGregor. “With the easy travel from Durban, this is by far one of my favorite events.

“Although we all want to paddle on the outside, it was the right call by the organizers, and it made for a tough race.

“One of the problems with Mauritius,” he laughed, “is that it’s such fun that it’s sometimes difficult to remember that you’re here to race! Thanks to the organizers, the sponsors, to Fenn and the Heritage Le Telfair hotel for putting me up.”

2020 Mauritius Surfski Week

Planning has already begun for next year’s event and the first decision is to detach the prize-giving ceremony and lunch from the main race to make it easier to implement the window period to ensure the main race is run outside the reef.

“Next year, we’ll be running the race on the first suitable day of the window period,” said event organizer Albert D’Unienville. “The prize-giving ceremony and party will be on the Saturday, and if we need to, we’ll have the relay/fun event on that day.”

Photos

A ton more photos are posted on Facebook (I think we managed to get images of just about everyone who took part):

LOGOS MOC 2019 ver 2

Full Results - Investec Mauritius Ocean Classic 

OverallNameCountryTime  
1 HANK MCGREGOR SOUTH AFRICA 0.51.42   1st over 40
2 GORDAN HARBRECHT GERMANY 0.51.43    
3 CORY HILL AUSTRALIA 0.51.58    
4 NICHOLAS NOTTEN SOUTH AFRICA 0.52.37    
5 JOSHUA FENN SOUTH AFRICA 0.54.34   1st u23
6 BRENDAN RICE AUSTRALIA 0.55.37    
7 ANDREW MOWLEM NEW ZEALAND 0.55.38    
8 IAN BLACK SOUTH AFRICA 0.55.52    
9 ERNST VAN RIET SOUTH AFRICA 0.55.53    
10 MATTHEW FENN SOUTH AFRICA 0.56.32   1st u18
11 HERMAN CHALUPSKY SOUTH AFRICA 0.58.00   1st over 50
12 EMMANUEL HENRY MAURITIUS 0.59.00   1st mauritian
13 ANDREW FUGLSANG AUSTRALIA 0.59.15    
14 OSKAR STIELAU NEW ZEALAND 1.01.15    
15 DEAN GARDINER AUSTRALIA 1.02.00    
16 HAYLEY NIXON SOUTH AFRICA 1.02.45 1st lady  
17 BARRY LEWIN SOUTH AFRICA 1.02.46    
18 PAUL HARDY AUSTRALIA 1.02.52    
19 MICHELLE BURN SOUTH AFRICA 1.02.55 2nd lady  
20 ROY FIELDUS GREAT BRITIAN 1.03.00    
21 LUKE VAN EES NETHERLANDS 1.03.26    
22 MICHAEL MC KEOGH AUSTRALIA 1.04.00    
23 COLIN SIMPKINS SOUTH AFRICA 1.05.00   1st over 60
24 CHRIS BARTLETT UAE 1.05.35    
25 JENNA WARD SOUTH AFRICA 1.06.01 3rd lady  
26 YANDA MORISON AUSTRALIA 1.06.24 4th lady 1st over 40 lady
27/28 BONNIE HANCOCK AUSTRALIA 1.06.25 5th lady  
27/28 JORDAN FENN SOUTH AFRICA 1.06.25   1st u16
29 ANDREW BEVERIDGE SOUTH AFRICA 1.06.35    
30 TERRENCE PICKARD SOUTH AFRICA 1.07.15    
31 MICHAEL MC LAGHLAN SOUTH AFRICA 1.07.25    
32 CHRISTOPHER VON DER HEYDEN UAE 1.08.00    
33 MATTHEW VAN HEERDEN SOUTH AFRICA 1.09.01    
34 NICHOLAS YAP SINGAPORE 1.09.06    
35 MELANIE KEPPLER GERMANY 1.11.00 6th lady  
36 BENNIE STEYN SOUTH AFRICA 1.11.01    
37 COLIN TURNER SOUTH AFRICA 1.11.50    
38/39 DR KATRIN MUELLER GERMANY 1.12.00 7th lady  
38/39 TONY LUBNER SOUTH AFRICA 1.12.00    
40 BENJAMIN TARR SOUTH AFRICA 1.13.01    
41 TIM STYLE UAE 1.13.05    
42 WAYNE HILTON TAYLOR UAE 1.13.45    
43 ANDREW HALL SOUTH AFRICA 1.13.50    
44 NEIL KIRKWOOD SOUTH AFRICA 1.13.55    
45 NEIL BAILEY MAURITIUS 1.14.00    
46 PHILIPPE LE VIEUX MAURITIUS 1.14.15    
47 SHARON ARMSTRONG SOUTH AFRICA 1.15.00 8th lady  
48 DAVID DEED MAURITIUS 1.15.15    
49 QUINTUS VAN DER MERWE SOUTH AFRICA 1.15.32    
50 JOHN SOKOLICH NEW ZEALAND 1.15.45    
51 ARNAUD DELERIVE REUNION 1.16.10    
52 HEIKO VAN WYNGAARDEN SOUTH AFRICA 1.16.21    
53 CLIFFORD BINEDELL SOUTH AFRICA 1.16.25    
54 TINUS KOON NETHERLANDS 1.16.40    
55 SCOTT ORMAN NEW ZEALAND 1.16.45    
56 BRETT LAMBERT SOUTH AFRICA 1.16.49    
57 ZELJKO BANICEVIC UAE 1.16.51    
58 DAVID GILMER SOUTH AFRICA 1.16.57   1st over 70
59 CHRIS LOGAN SOUTH AFRICA 1.16.58    
60 RICHARD NEZAR UAE 1.16.59    
61 ALEC WING SINGAPORE 1.17.06    
62 SEAN KRITZINGER SOUTH AFRICA 1.17.14    
63 TANAZ NOBLE INDIA 1.18.32 9th lady  
64 CATHERINE DELERIVE REUNION 1.18.37 10th lady 1st over 50 lady
65 PETER GARDENER SOUTH AFRICA 1.20.59    
66 JOHN CHARLIE BERRINGTON SOUTH AFRICA 1.21.01    
67 REMY MARTRENCHAR REUNION 1.22.00    
68 DAVID REES SOUTH AFRICA 1.22.37    
69 THIERRY RIVIERE REUNION 1.26.13    
70 STEVEN ATTWOOD MAURITIUS 1.28.00    

Latest Forum Topics