The Poor Knights Crossing of 2022 will live long in the memory.
The Paddlers of the Poor Knights Crossing paid some hefty tax on the two-hour-plus logistical nightmare of unloading racing craft while at anchor on an angry ocean pre-start at Maroro Bay in the Poor Knights Marine Reserve, Tawhiti Rahi.
Bodies were tired, minds were filling with doubt, and Tangaroa and Tawhirimatea didn’t seem to have much sympathy as their argument resulted in a furious tangle of surging wind swells and confused ocean surges.
At the pointy end of the race fleet, the foilers managed to traverse the 30km course in about an hour, with the quickest just under the 60-minute mark.
The best ocean paddlers were locked in an intriguing wrestle with course navigation one of the critical elements, but strength and durability emerged as the most important aspect in this year’s ocean conditions.
On the Ocean Ski, defending champion Ben Keys was being tracked by young gun Kalani Gilbertsen, but unbeknown to them just a few kilometres south a new ocean warrior, Andrew Newton, was about to make his move.
The waka ama division had the best of Aotearoa’s disciples locking horns with several past and present national singlet wearers in the field. But it was the imposing figure of Narada Bury who managed to wrestle his way to the front.
Among a solid entry of wahine who lined up, Carly Keys of Otautahi Christchurch had boosted her way to an impressive lead in her division.
As the leaders rounded into the Tutukaka Harbour it emerged that Newton had used his power and resilience to bully his way past Keys and Gilbertsen, who both had navigation issues through the final few kilometres.
Bury, powered his way to win the waka ama section and Carly Keys similarly managed to keep churning the blade through some testy waters to victory.
This year, it seemed, power paddlers had the answer to the queries of a confused and angry ocean.
The technical players would have to wait for different conditions, more suited to their particular tricks of the trade.
In the mid-pack the competition was no longer, if ever at all, with each other but rather a battle to stay focused and determined. The rescue boat, now at capacity, had to head dockside to unload before returning.
Other safety craft were redeployed to watch over the remaining competitors as they arrived, slightly worse for wear, at the finish.
It had been another unique challenge, one vastly different to any of the previous Poor Knights Crossing events, one that won’t fade from memory quickly.
“It was hard not to notice the physique of all the winners this year,” race director Tim Eves said.
“Strength paid dividends today.”
“Our safety systems were tested for sure this year and proved just as durable. I have nothing but admiration for our winners this year. Carly Keys monstered that course and Bury and Newton just kept banging despite the conditions,” he said.
“The paddlers I always admire are those mid-packers. Some kept going when the option to opt-out was always available. Others had the courage to say ‘actually, no, I need help’. Sometimes that decision is the hardest one to make.” Results: Women’s Waka Double:
1. Ngaire/Rachel OC2 3h 28m 10s
Men’s Waka Double:
1. Tama/Phyrrell OC2 2h 58m 22s
1. Taranaki OC4
2. Mitamitaga OC4
1. Carly Keys 2h 54m
2. Tara Smith 3h 07m 00s
3. Katrina Madill 3h 10m 00s
1. Andrew Newton 2h 29m 13s, 1;
2. Garth Spencer 2h 30m 00s, 2;
3. Toby Brooke 2h 31m 00s
Men’s Waka Single:
1. Narada Bury 2h 46m 11s
2. Steve Roulston 2h 50m 39s
3. Simon Wolfgram 2h 51m 38s