EuroChallenge - The European Challengers!

Monday, 27 April 2009 14:28 | Written by 
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There is little doubt that when the race starts the front pack will include Jeremy Cotter (Aus), Dawid Mocke (SA) and Matt Bouman (SA).  (Hank McGregor is focussing on Molokai and Grant vd Walt couldn't get a visa in time for the race.)  And in the women's race, South African Michele Eray is likely to set the pace. 

But the standard of European surfski paddling has improved radically in the last year - and the southern hemisphere paddlers would be well advised to keep an eye on some of the names listed in this article...

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European paddlers

Everywhere - from the south of Spain to the freezing waters of Sweden and Norway, the popularity of surf ski paddling has been exploding. 

Top Spanish Paddlers

At the Dubai Shamaal last year, the first European across the line (in 28th spot behind Dean Gardiner) was Abert Corominas Bertran from Spain.

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He's been "training madly" for EuroChallenge - paddling twice a day most days, three times a week on the sea.  The marathon champion said that he didn't think he had a chance against Cotter and Mocke, but he's aiming at a European top three - and wants to beat Busto!

Busto hasn't spent much time in surfski as he's been training for marathon events.  Although he's focussing on marathon this year, he'll be spending a lot more time in surfskis in 2010.

From Portugal, Luis Ventura is the man to watch. 

UK

The newly appointed Epic agent in the UK, Ivan Lawler (former K1 marathon World Champion), is competing.  He only recently picked up his paddles again after a long layoff.  "But I'll be paddling hard," he said.  "That competitive spirit is impossible to shake!" 

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Other UK paddlers include:

  • Former SLSA GB ski champion (and fastest ever K4 member) Glenn Eldridge
  • Mark Ressel (20th in Dubai 2007, 3 x GB ski champion, 6 x GB double ski champion.)
  • Chloe Bennett should feature in the women's race - having won last year's Downwind to Dubai race.

French Team

A large French contingent is travelling to Alicante - apart from anything else, the French are using the race to select a team to travel to the Caribbean (top 6 places), and to the Durban World Cup in South Africa (top 2 places).

Benoit Leroux showed a clean pair of heels to Oscar Chalupsky on the upwind leg of last year's French Championships.  He said he hasn't been training as much as last year.  The reason?  "I'm now a manufacturer of surfskis," he said.  "I hope to show that my boats are fast - I'm bringing my new 9kg boat to EuroChallenge!"  (Oscar caught and passed Benoit on the downwind leg of the race but Benoit finished close behind and was crowned French Champion.)

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Yannick Laousse was also racing in Quiberon Bay.  He ended up third behind Benoit and David Szlachta (Chalupsky was counted as a "guest").  According to Benoit Leroux, however, Laousse is "ready" for EuroChallenge.  "We've trained together since January," said Leroux, "and Yannick is fast!  There should be a good battle in Spain - in our last race Yannick was first, Gaetan Séné was second, and I was third."

The race is expecting some 10-15 contenders from France including:

  • David Szlachta (2nd in the French Champs)
  • Marc le Mentec (ICF sprint and marathon paddler)
  • Stephane Roudaut (French team coach for the 2008 Caribbean Tour.  Rated by Marc Le Mentec as the "most experienced French paddler in big conditions".)
  • Yann Le Tocquet (partnering Benoit Leroux in doubles races).
  • David Kerneis
  • Eric Marinier
  • Véronique Marrec
  • Edwin Lucas (according to Le Mentec, the fastest French paddler this year on flat water.  His entry in EuroChallenge is not confirmed yet as he's competing this week in trials for the French ICF Olympic team.)

Jean Rillard is not expected to compete in this race; he's at university in Canada, where he's been helping with the development of Think Kayaks' skis.

Most of the French paddlers are competing in a race on the Atlantic coast this weekend.  "I guess this will be a good opportunity for everybody to check if our winter training has been useful," said Marc Le Mentec,  "...I'll let you know the results."

 Sweden

Tommy Karls (K4 silver medallist at the '84 LA Olympics) will be joined by fellow paddlers Peter Ekstrom (who runs the very active "Global Surfski" blog) and former rowing champion Paul Rosenquist.

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Fredrik Lindstrom of Nordic Kayaks will be there with the prototype of the new Nordic Kayaks "Fusion" ski.

Italy

The squad from Italy includes Jaka Jazbec, a former Olympic sprinter who has featured at the front of a number of surfski races in the last year (2nd in Belgium last year behind Benoit Leroux, 33rd in the 2008 Dubai Shamaal in front of Ivan Lawler and 2 places back from Busto.)

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Conditions

A lot depends on the conditions of course - the South Africans and Aussies have a huge advantage going downwind. 

But the European paddlers are catching on fast - and if the wind doesn't blow on Saturday, we could see some close racing up front.

And the current forecast... is for light winds from the ENE... 

Live commentary

From Wednesday the Surfski.info team will be posting interviews and more info on the race - and don't forget to tune in to our live text commentary on Saturday...


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