More than 60 students from across Armidale will take to the water in what is considered one of the most gruelling adventure events in Australia.
Fifty paddlers from The Armidale School, 1resbyterian Ladies' College and New England Girls’ School will brave the waters in this Saturday’s 111km overnight Hawkesbury Canoe Classic from Windsor to Brooklyn Bridge, north west of Sydney.
They will be supported by a land crew of almost as many parents and staff who will assist them through the night.
Training began in winter for the TAS team on Malpas Dam north of Armidale for the event, which this year has 394 entries.
Year 11 students Liam Donaldson and Sebastian Scott are tackling their third Hawkesbury, with hopes to better the time of 11 hours, 53 minutes and 13 seconds, which was more than two hours faster than their first attempt in 2013.
“It’s always tough and going against the tides is the hardest, no matter where it is – but this year that should be just before midnight so hopefully we will be able to run with the water through most of the early morning to the finish line,” said Liam, adding that the pair will this year be paddling a faster type of kayak than last year.
First timer Georgie O’Brien, Year 10, is also enthused for the race.
“I’ve been doing a lot of training and it’s been pretty cold and hard going, doing as many laps as we can as Malpas to make us prepared,” said Georgie, who will be paddling with Year 11 student Olivia Fenwicke.
“Part of the attraction is achieving what will be a mental as well as physical challenge and finishing it will be really rewarding. It’s also the final leg of the TAS Triple Crown award and I’m keen to complete that.”
The event is a major fundraiser for the Arrow Bone Marrow Foundation, and over the decades TAS paddlers have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the cause.
TAS Headmaster Murray Guest, who has paddled it on eight occasions himself, said it was an iconic endurance challenge at the school, made all the moreso with its inclusion alongside the 2km Coffs Ocean Swim and the 14km City to Surf footrace as the components of the Triple Crown.
“I am sure that all those who have been preparing for it will be feeling some sense of trepidation as race day approaches, but I also know it will be an experience that is remembered for a lifetime,” he said.
“The school is proud to again be fielding so many paddlers in the 40th year of the event and be one of the longest-running participants.”
PLC’s Tara Price has been busy getting ready for the event but knows it will be a tough challenge.
She is teaming up with Kate Biddle for the race.
“Even though I don’t feel prepared, I am still looking forward to the event,” she said.
“I have a great partner too which will help.”
Biddle agreed with her teammate and said facing such a long course is nerve-racking.
“Too scary to think about. I am looking forward to achieving such a demanding event,” she said.
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