Starboard’s stand up paddle board racers Connor Baxter (Maui) and Annabel Anderson (New Zealand), managed to defeat some of the world’s best stand up paddlers, in some of the most grueling conditions, at the Starboard SUP Challenge, division of The Doctor.
Racers took on the challenging head winds of the 27.5 km open ocean race, which started at Rottnest Island and ended at Sorrento Beach in Perth, Australia. Connor, racing on the Starboard 14’ ACE, kept a steady pace throughout, completing the event in 2hrs and 46 min and finishing ahead of Australia’s Sam Parker and Kelly Margetts. Last year’s runner-up, Bart de Zwart (Maui), placed 4th.
TOP 10 racers:
1st: Connor Baxter | 14ft class | 02:46:51
2nd: Sam Parker | 14ft class | 02:49:30
3rd: Kelly Margetts | 14ft class | 02:55:04
4th: Bart de Zwart | 14ft class | 02:57:42
5th: Jake Jensen | 14ft class | 02:59:53
6th: Beau O’Brian | 14ft class | 03:01:00
7th: Steve Walker | Open class | 03:06:00
8th: Lincoln Dews | 12’6″ class | 03:10:12
9th: Mike Galvin | 14ft class | 03:13:19
10th: Travis Grant | 14ft class | 03:14:14 Check out the full results on www.supracer.com
Our friend Annabel Anderson, one of the top female racers, battled the conditions on a Starboard 14’ ACE to complete the race in 3hr and 20 min finishing ahead of some of Australia’s fastest racers, Angie Jackson and Terrene Black. She also placed 13th overall, beating a lot of great male racers… you go girl!
And here is Annabel’s report from the race:
“Some say it’s the best downwind run in the world, others know it more intimately from the days when the Australians defended the America’s Cup off Fremantle when the breeze blew 28knots every afternoon. It’s otherwise known as The Doctor and on Saturday 21st January 2012, The Doctor went on locum duty and didn’t live up to it’s name. More appropriately, it sent more than a few in need of a post race visit to a doctor to check their physical and mental well being.
I’m talking about what is famed to be the most well known downwind paddling race outside of Hawaii and it draw numbers in the hundreds from all parts of the globe to ride the ferocious Doctor generated wind swells from Rottnest Island 27km to Sorrento Beach on the northern shores of Perth. Traditionally an ocean paddling surf ski event, stand ups have joined the event in the past couple of years and it drew one of the strongest fields seen internationally outside of Hawaii or mainland US.
With the lure of a $10k prize pot put up by Starboard Australia, the bait had been dangled. 10 days out, sitting at home staring at a mountain vista at home in Wanaka, I looked up airfares to Perth and without thinking too much about what I was letting myself in for, booked my ticket. Nothing like a bit of racing to get you back in the game after a couple of weeks at home with the family over Christmas right?
A couple of Australian friends had emailed to say that the forecast was looking light. Light? What’s ‘light’ when the only thing my kiwi mates could say was ‘watch out for the sharks, they’re hungry over there at the moment’. ‘She’ll be right mate’…..or so I thought.
Giving myself a day up my sleeve to get organized on the ground I landed at Perth airport in sweltering 39 degree heat. My Starboard team mates Bart de Zwart & Connor Baxter were arriving in from Bangkok at the same time. The prospect of going for a paddle and a swim was welcome relief with a gentle sea breeze off the Scarborough shore. A few bumps, cooler than on land and the view of Rottnest Island or ‘Rotto’ as the locals call it in the distance. As with all point to point races logistics play a big part and this weekend was not going to be any different. Thankfully Ian from Starboard Australia had a boat, vans, boards and everything lined up to make it as easy as possible….again, famous last words.
380 odd paddlers were going to take to the water in surf skis, double surf skis, stand ups and out riggers. That’s a few craft lining up on the beach. The chat at registration on Friday evening was optimistic for some breeze to fill in and the direction to improve but as we made our way from the marina in Fremantle across the Rottnest Channel it was apparent ‘The Doctor’ was officially at the outpatients for the day. It was easy to see why Rottnest is a popular escape for Perth-siders, it’s island location bringing a welcome respite from the ferocity of the West Australian heat. But as the time to the start ticked away,there was little hope of the temperature being bearable or hope of much sea breeze. With the conditions not cooperating, the event directors were left with little choice but to send us off on a slightly altered course and earlier than scheduled to try and get us across the shipping channel as quickly as possibly. Nothing like a super tanker about to mow you over to make you go a little faster right?
With little warning someone yelled ‘go’ from a boat and we were off. I’m not entirely sure what happened to me in the first few k’s but I came if my board at least 5 times and lost the draft train of the front pack of men lead out by Connor Baxter, Sam, Kelly Margetts & Bart de Zwart. It was then that I realized that no amount of fitness was going to save me in the heat and I was going to be in for a long hard slog to the beach (which never appeared to get any closer).
The cross chop was horrid, the breeze was constantly on your left hip and I think I only managed a total of about 20 strokes on my left side the entire journey to Sorrento Beach. The pack strung out and I could sense those around me were going working through their own mental horror shows. I was feeling as though my shoulder was about to ping every stroke as I mixed up my technique to relieve some of the load I was feeling. It was a long way to Sorrento and the beach never seemed to get any closer. The quartering breeze always trying to push you south on your course.The whir of the helicopter was an indication we were getting closer and slowly ski paddlers began to appear from the rear, looking effortless as they went ahead.
Those last couple of k’s were possibly some of the longest and hardest I’ve paddled,my eyes feeling blurry straining to see the finish. The only hurdle left to contend with was the dreaded shore break and I was definitely on a challenging board to make a graceful dismount (we’d all been ‘introduced’ to the shore break the previous day….and it takes no prisoners spitting boards into the air and people onto the beach!) A little good timing and I made it ashore in one piece. To cross the line and see an old school friend from Dunedin (Sth Island, NZ) there to greet me was a welcome sight as I was truly not in any space for conversation until at least 5mins afterwards.
It’s funny how the pain of an event can be overcome by the camaraderie of your fellow competitors you have shared the misery with. As both Connor and I were awarded with our Dr’s cloaks, I could not help but think how much I almost might have needed a proper Dr after that one. Jokes aside, as races crop up around the globe and we are challenging our bodies and minds in different ways, it’s easy to think ‘it’s only 30odd k’s. But add in heat, intense sun, weird currents and the like and you have a much greater task at hand. I’ve done several races now that ‘on paper’ look not that bad, but in reality strong, fit elite paddlers have been pulled from the water.
You never know when you are going to have a ‘not-so-good’ day, so appreciate the ones that you feel good! It’s the not-so-good ones that make the good days feel even better.
Note: I was not there, the above pics are from adventures with Annabel last summer..
A big thank you to all the Aussie Starboard crew for making the logistics of coming to this event so much easier. Having the luxury of picking up a 14′ board in WA is no small task and it’s much appreciated. Congrats to Connor for kicking butt against some mighty Aussies and to Bart for keeping them honest. Keep your eyes peeled for Lincoln Dews who rocked it on the 12’6 and to Scotty McKerchar for the finest looking PFD (circa 1984). Next time I’d like to visit when the Dr is ‘available’ as this run is revered as one of the best in the world when it is on. See you there!”