Have you ever wondered what it is like to paddle down a rapid for the first time? in a tippy canoe with little steering? read the race report below to hear about Jack Wilsons experience when he put himself out of his comfort zone and paddled a rapid for the first time at this years Australian WildWater Championships.
Jack is an experienced Marathon and Sprint Canoe athlete and this experience also assisted him to have the strength and technique to take on his first rapid.
RACE REPORT – by Jack Wilson
This year Victoria hosted the Australian National Wildwater Championships, with National Team Selection races being held on the Mitta Mitta River at Dartmouth on January 2nd and 3rd with the National Titles following a week later on the Goulburn River at Eildon.
For a novice Wildwater paddler having only ever paddled an OC1 and TC2 down this stretch of river it was an incredibly challenging and eye opening but most importantly fun experience. I feel it necessary to first thank the organizers of the event, in Canoeing Victoria, Chris Wharton as race director and statistician extraordinaire, the paddlers and their families, event sponsors and Bendigo Canoe Club members for the making the weekend such an enjoyable time.
Secondly, I would have not been able to participate without the generosity and tuition given to me by Peter J White, who took on the challenge of paddling and racing with a complete novice wildwater canoeist, partnering me in the C2 Sprint & Classic Events.
So, for those not informed about wildwater/downriver C2 boats, a quick lesson.
The canoes are 5m (16 ft 5 in) long, and 80 cm (31.5 in) wide. The boats all have a rounded hull profile, making them fast but unstable and hard to turn. Rather than using wide sweep strokes to turn the boat, the paddler tilts the boat to one side utilizing its curved profile to effect the turn in a manner similar to ‘carving a turn’ in skiing. The flared wings protruding at the stern of the boat behind the rear paddler meet the minimum width requirement with the width of the cockpit area narrower maximising the speed of the boat with the wing providing stability. The athlete kneels on both knees with either their feet tucked under them below a seat, or tightly wedged between foam with the knees strapped in, giving the paddler full control of the boat. – (Paraphrased from Wikipedia).
Unfortunately for me it was super uncomfortable, barely fitting my legs under the seat, with them loosely flailing around beneath me, and thanks to Ken McMullan (former Australian Canoe Sprint Champion) for accurately describing the arrangement as a ‘Suicide Seat’, my mind was racing on Saturday night as I attempted to sleep knowing the next day before 9am I would paddle down the main wave at Bluegums in an unfamiliar vessel, with an unfamiliar partner for the first time without ever having been in the boat except for the night before practising getting in on dry land. Nervous times……
So, the next morning at 8.30 Peter and I began our weekends paddling at the Pumpkins rapid, hesitantly heading down to the boat ramp for the 500m dash, and take my word it was very sketchy, with no familiarity except for the paddle size and PFD to the vessels I typically paddle. With the number 1 bib on, 15 mins fashionably late to the line having been only in the boat not much longer, Peter breathing heavily, myself pale faced and focussed we set off for the main wave.
We lined up to the right and the river brought the nose around direct into the middle of the wave and through we crashed, and thanks to Peters bracing whilst I just kept on paddling on the left and fighting his attempts to lean the boat we successfully completed the course. Sprint down only the classic was left.
After watching the other competitors complete their runs it was back to the camp for a feed, nap and stretch. At four o’clock on Sunday evening we recced the 3km classic course, and whilst the confidence improved I was still unwilling to fully commit to the leans required to make clean turns and put added pressure on Peter to navigate us safely through the sweeping ‘S’ Bend and Pumpkins rapids. The stage was set for the penultimate challenge.
Thankfully after arriving at the Eildon Weir we did not have long to wait, and thankfully had a bunny in front of us to chase down the river. And chase we did, visibly making up ground on the younger but far more proficient and skilful pair ahead. A couple of times I held the lean alright but for the most part we got around the right-hand corners thanks to Peters steering, and thanks to the paddle the night before I felt slightly better conditioned to paddle the entire race on the left of the boat. Through the sweeper we made up good ground on the boys in front who started a minute ahead, who then relishing the racing put in a sprint effort before the pumpkins rapid and had a handy gap heading down to the main wave, like the sprint the day before we pushed right and found an improved line over the wave, far less jittery then previous with less bracing required by Pete we finished the race off with greater momentum, very pleased with our efforts.
Overall it was an exceptionally fun and enjoyable weekends paddling. It was amazing to watch the skill of the other paddlers both kayak and canoe, wildwater and slalom disciplines, even had a fanboy moment crossing paths with Jessica Fox, it was great watching her and the other slalom paddlers seeing their incredible skill firsthand. It was a pleasure camping as a ring in with Bendigo Canoe Club, and the Avoca paddlers, congratulations to Rob and Alex McIntyre, James Humphry, Imogen Douglass and Ashlee Ilott for some stand out performances and winning of National Wildwater K1 Individual and Team Titles. Good luck to those still competing this week in the slalom events.
Photo below is of Jack Wilson and Peter J White in the C2 together, thank you to Tony Mission for the photo.
Wednesday January 17th, 2018 11:09am -> Monday April 10th, 2017 1:55pm