1-2 September 2012 | Andre Santos, Nelo - For race day we had a normal western Europe summer’s afternoon with the north wind blowing solid after lunch. The wind helped us give everyone a chance to experience some awesome downwind conditions and even more extreme downwind conditions when the wind increased to 25 knots and more. The swell was pretty small which ended up being a good thing.
The race started on the beach in a Le Mans style (run from behind your boat and jump into it) where the average heart rate of competitors was over 180 bpm. With 2250 Euros at stake just 1.3 km from the start, 170 crafts took off in a show of colour, noise and power! The Le Mans style start was hard for the less experienced paddlers and for the sprinters, allowing the surf ski specialists to take off like bullets leaving the peloton behind.
Sean Rice RSA was the first one to get to the hot spot, followed closely by Ken Wallace AUS and Jasper Mocke RSA. Racing into a solid 15 knot wind they managed to average close to 12.5 km/h. The pack was compact and there was no more than 27 seconds from 1st to 10th place.
Teneale Hatton NZL was the first girl touching the turning mark in an impressive 6.53 minutes, being less than 10 sec behind the top 10 competitors, and with a 20 second lead over Beatriz Gomes POR and 30 secs ahead of Michele Eray RSA.
After the first turning point, competitors faced an 8.1 km downwind course with good runs and wind, allowing the top paddlers to average close to 17 km/h battling a small current. The fastest downwind paddler was again Dawid Mocke SA who closed the gap on the leaders and then kept changing the lead with Jasper Mocke RSA all the way to turning point 2. Sean Rice and Ken Wallace paid the price for their early sprint and dropped back in the field, Max Hoff and Bill Bain who were in the top 10 also struggled to keep the pace into the second part of the race. Behind the front trio it was Dane Sloss AUS who moved from 7th to 4th and David Smith AUS who moved from 16th to 6th, who called the shots and made the best out of every run to progress through the field.
Michele Eray RSA is the most well-known lady ski paddler in the world, and she showed why during this race. After injury and being 30 sec behind at turning point 1, she scored an impressive 34.08 gaining over 1 minute in this leg to catch Teneale Hatton and then lead with a 35 sec advantage into the last stretch. Beatriz Gomes lost track of Michele and Teneale but not being an experienced paddler, she did a great job.
The final 800 metres rounding the reef into the beach presented some challenges that were not mentioned on any of the maps - side wind and runs - making those 800 metres a challenge to all the paddlers.
Jasper Mocke and Dawid Mocke turned at the same time but chose different lines, Jasper chose to go straighter using the runs but landing further away from the finish while Dawid took a closer line putting himself more side ways into the wind. In the end they both worked hard and it was a tighter finish than the times reflect. Dawid took the pedal out in the beach running as he saw Japer crossing the line. Sean Rice came in 3rd not far behind but with a good lead over Dane Sloss and Ken Wallace. A close finish ensued for 6th, 7th and 8th positions, with Joep Bakel NED finishing as the first European followed by Walter Bouzan ESP in 9th (double marathon world champion K2).
The girls managed to keep more or less the same distance and positions they set earlier in the race with Michele Eray RSA taking first place (sole double winner of the NSC), Teneale Hatton NZL in second and Beatriz Gomes POR in third.
Event website: http://summerchallenge.nelo.eu/en/
Race with GoPro camera: www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAqPnhwD73M