A MASSIVE storm event that had not been forecast cut short the efforts of most competitors in this year’s 111km Hawkesbury Canoe Classic event, but not before 18 kayakers in nine boats from The Armidale School’s team crossed the line in treacherous conditions.
When the boats entered the water at Windsor around 4.15pm on Saturday there was no indication that nearly 14 hours later lashing winds, torrential rain and hail would generate surface waves, capsizing kayaks and throwing paddlers into a high state of alert.
Crossing the line at Brooklyn Bridge before the turmoil were the first junior and TAS team home, Jack Waters (Armidale) and Angus Earle (Moree) who completed the event at 5.03 am, a couple of hours sooner than they had anticipated.
“The toughest part was coming into Wisemans Ferry at the 66km mark, the tide was against us and that was pretty testing,” said Angus.
“It was getting a bit choppy in the last few kilometres, but nothing like the wind that blew up later on.”
The first TAS girls home were Emma Ward (Armidale) and Tayla Frahm (Moree).
“We just kept focusing on getting to the next checkpoint, rather than thinking about the whole race,” Emma said.
“Following others who knew what they were doing was also a huge help,” added Tayla.
Others to finish before the race was truncated were Curlewis brothers Joshua and Sam Jones; Liam Smith (Armidale) and Nick Barnier (Gunnedah); Alex Kirk (Armidale) and Tim Cimino (Korora), and Bronte Garcia and Kate Allen (both Armidale).
Not so lucky were siblings Jack and Joseph Sewell who were only five km from the finish when they were turned back by organisers forced to terminate the race due to storm conditions that placed paddlers at risk.
“We were on the final strait when the wind really picked up and waves were crashing into the boat when we had to paddle back to the Spencer checkpoint. We ended up paddling more to where we had to get out, than we had left of the race – so we do feel as if we completed the challenge anyway,” Joseph said.
The TAS team comprised of 59 paddlers, most of whom made the 98km Spencer checkpoint where the race was terminated.
Headmaster Murray Guest, who with his wife Joanne also had their seventh attempt at the race cut short at Spencer, praised all those who took part.
“The Hawkesbury journey, from the training on Malpas Dam to the huge challenge of the event itself, is
an experience that forges bonds, inspires spirit, builds resilience and creates memories that will last for
decades. This is equally true of paddlers and landcrew alike and Team TAS has much that they can be
proud of this year.”