I was really looking forward to the Paddlegaine and I am very happy I competed and I will remember the event for the rest of my life.
I am a semi regular kayaker and have access to a number of different kayaks. Unfortunately, none of the kayaks are racing kayaks, but I had a choice of:
- 4m flat water fibreglass sit-in (I have two of these)
- 5.1m sea capable fibreglass touring kayak sit-in
- 2.5m plastic kayak sit-on
The immediate temptation was to go for the longest kayak available since speed on the water, all other things being equal, is a product of water line length. We had already been told that there would be some controls that require you to get out of the kayak and there is nothing quick or easy about getting out of a sit in kayak. Also, the longer the kayak the less capable they will be in tight manoeuvres. In the end I decided to go for the 4m flat water fibreglass sit-in since this should have yielded the best combination of water line speed versus manoeuvrability. The other consideration was that I had bought it 2nd hand for $80 so I was no too worried if it got banged about jumping in and out.
As it turned out this was probably the wrong choice. The wind and waves were quite strong at several stages of the event and it was a real fight to keep the rudderless flat water kayak above the water and on course against a maelstrom of wind, chop and tide. Having looked at my GPS track I was quite pleased with how straight my lines were given this challenge.
My other pre-event consideration was do I lend my spare kayak to my usual team mate Julian Ledger. Julian is only 2 points behind me in the 2019 Series Point Score I would never forgive myself if he beat me in the series point score using my own kayak (we are teaming up for the Socialgaine). In any case, in a moment of weakness or insanity, I decided to loan Julian my 2nd, 4m flat water kayak for the event. The race was on.
When I arrived at the event the first thing to notice was the range of kayaks on offer. I was looking very jealously at some of the sit on and sit in racing kayaks knowing that my only chance of beating them would be if some very tight turning was required. I also looked across to the hire kayaks which were very functional and practical but short plastic kayaks and slow and there was no way that I should be beaten by one of these.
Another consideration was the promenade rogaine. I had assumed that this would be a 5-10 minute frolic along some grassy foreshores. Instead it turned out to be, for me anyway, over an hour of slogging it out through bush and hills. In fact having picked up my map the promenade rogaine looked very like a Sydney Summer Series orienteering event.
The event started and Julian I had both decided to avoid any possible traffic at the early controls and go straight across the bay to do the promenade rogaine. Paddling across the bay was quite slow and difficult in the wind, chop and tide. I arrived at the other side about 10 seconds ahead of Julian and took off for my promenade rogaine. I went anti-clockwise around the course while Julian went clockwise so my next indication about how I was travelling was going to be at the half-way point of the run. On the way I missed control number 12. I saw a sign but no control and I was not going to waste time over a 10 pointer. As it turned out the control was just a little bit further up the hill. I also made a really stupid mistake leaving control 73. I went up the hill to the north and got to the top before I realised I should have been heading west (Doh). Julian and I passed each other at control 10, which I figured was pretty much half way, but I knew that Julian would not miss control 12 so even if we arrived back at the kayaks at the same time he would be 10 points ahead of me. My next indication of progress was going to be when I got back to my kayak. Would Julian’s kayak still be there?
When I eventually got back to my kayak I was a bit panicked to find that Julian’s kayak was no longer there. As I grabbed my kayak and headed back to the water I quickly scanned the horizon and I could not see him. Bugger! He was now at least 10 points and several minutes ahead of me. I jumped in my kayak and started paddling furiously towards control 101. By the time I was about 1/3 of the way there I realised I could see Julian’s (my) kayak in the distance and I figured that he was now 10 points and possibly 4-6 minutes ahead of me.
There is nothing quite as motivating as trying to beat a good mate, so I paddled as hard as I could and I realised that I was slowly gaining on Julian. To be fair I have done much more kayaking than Julian in recent years and I had gone to the effort to have a few training runs before the event. By the time we got to 101 Julian was only 76 seconds ahead of me. I passed Julian on the traverse from 101 to 62 and that was the last time I saw him for an hour. It is very hard to look directly behind you on a kayak without dropping pace so I just focussed on doing my own thing and paddling as fast as I could.
After 62, I went and did 20, 64 and 22. I then decided to do 36 and 90. Pre-event I had decided that the out and back from 36 to 90 was not going to be worthwhile, but having experienced the swell, chop and wind in the middle of the bay, I realised that this would be quick, flat water kayaking which was ideally suited to me and my kayak. As it turned out this leg was probably the difference between Julian’s and my course. Julian picked up 61 but in a similar time I had picked up 36 and 90.
After 90 and 36 I went to 74, 28 and 52. At 52 I had a very difficult decision to make. I had 28 minutes left and I felt like I could get to the hash house in that time, but did I have time to get 41, 27 or 40 on the way back? Having been late back on a number of rogaines I know it is not much fun, so I headed straight back to the hash house. By this stage I could see Julian and he could see me and I was confident that if I turned for the hash house he would do so as well.
As it turned out the run back to the hash house was much quicker then expected and I arrived there 15 minutes early, kicking myself that I had made a bad decision and forgone at least 40 points.
After the event finished and the points were tallied I found my self 50 points ahead of my friend and rival Julian and I finished a creditable 17th place out of the 58 competitors in the singles event.
The other thing to note about the Paddlegaine is that the basemap was credited to Russell Rigby who passed away recently. Russell was a fine map maker and orienteer and was of great assistance to me when I was trying to configure RouteGadget. Russell’s widow, Carolyn, was at the event helping out on the weekend. Thanks Russell and condolences to Carolyn from the Rogaining community.
Many thanks to Geoff and Margaret Peel for putting on a great event. The event was very well organised and the course well set. There were lots of volunteers on hand for every task and I had a great time. I feel a bit sorry for everyone who did not come along as they missed out on a really memorable occasion.