The team plan was for all to meet at my place at 8.30am for a 9am departure for Windsor. That was thrown into disarray when Sacha got lost and drove up and down the M2 Freeway in both directions looking for the offramp! When he finally arrived an hour late, we took off in convoy – Grums car with the canoe, my wife and girls in my car, and Sacha bringing up the rear.
Once we arrived we busied ourselves getting ready. Sacha and Grumm put the boat through scrutineering, Gelo and I went and registered, Burnsie prepared the food and supplies, and my wife and girls got some food and played on the playground. We all then mixed with other paddlers and socialised a bit, all whilst watching the interesting change in the weather as sunshine and heat were replaced with storm clouds and wind. Then before we knew it, it was time to get ready for the start – as lightning broke over the hills to the south of us!
We just managed to get the boat down to the water as the warning whistle went, so we hastily adjusted our positions in the boat before paddling up to the start line. Looking around us, it was easy to see we were in the slowest tub on the water that day – with all paddlers being equal, we were a sure bet to come last! Regardless, when the gun fired we threw ourselves into it, setting a “blistering” pace in front of the crowds. Our short fat canoe pushed a monster bow wake in front of it as we powered along amongst the motley mix of kayaks, outriggers, SUPs and other miscellaneous paddle craft.
Once out of sight of the crowds we slowed our pace down a little, working out the right pace for the remainder of the race. We were hurting already from the fast start and from fighting a headwind that was racing ahead of an incoming storm, but determined to have fun we chatted to the other paddlers and pumped up our stereo, blasting out a mix of rock and old school hip hop.
At this point we thought we’d have a play with the GoPro Hero HD that we’d brought along, and somehow I convinced Gelo to become a human camera tripod. He wrapped the GoPro strap around his face to get the right angle, and then with me cracking up laughing at his gimp-like headgear, he proceeded to film the action behind him.
Footage taken with Gelo’s Ball Gag GoPro Mount. Trying to paddle through the laughter!
After a few minutes of me laughing, Gelo removed the camera mount and concentrated on the paddling. We chatted some more with passing kayaks and then settled into the paddling, fighting the wind and feeling the first few spots of rain. Before long we passed our cheering landcrew at the Cattai checkpoint (12km) and then concentrated on the remaining distance to the first stop for refuelling at Sackville.
Over the following hour the sky darkened and we found ouselves paddling in the dark, disturbed only by the speedier kayakers zooming past in a blur of cyalume glow. Gelo was starting to find the going tough (he’d never paddled 30km without a break before) and when we finally pulled into the beach at Sackville he was more than ready for a break and a feed.
Fortunately our landcrew had arrived before us (unlike HCC 2009!), had scouted out the local food (there was none), done two trips back to the car to get gear and were busy cooking up a storm. I was handed a hot cup of tea, Gelo a hot cup of coffee, and then both of us a bowl of pasta salad as entré. With that finished Burnsie cooked up half a dozen lamb & mint sausages and with other paddlers looking on jealously, handed a plate each to Gelo and I. Sausages and sauce – the cornerstone of any elite athletes nutrition plan!
With bellies full of hot tea/coffee, pasta ands sausages, we were all set for the next 30km leg of our race. We pulled on our warmer thermals and then walked back down to the canoe, well fed and ready to go. Our landcrew packed the boat with new supplies of water and snacks, got us into our seats and pushed us out into the river. (To Be Continued).