World Marathon K2 masters (M45-49) champions Garth Spencer and Vaughan Reed produced one of the performances of the weekend at the New Zealand Virtual Paddling Championships, registering a super sharp time of 50:12 in the K2 boat. Earlier in the competition, the dynamic duo laid down a marker to the rest by clocking 51:40 on flatwater on Lake Pupuke in Auckland’s North Shore.
However, a change of venue to Henderson Creek – on an out and back course from the Te Atatu Club on Saturday – proved inspired as the top-quality combination stepped up their performance level in the competition, which runs throughout the month of March. “Vaughan and I decided if we could take advantage of the tides by paddling the K2 up the creek with the incoming tides and then up came out with the outgoing tides. It was perfect conditions,” he explains. “Judging the tide is very tricky because it gets all swirly before high tide. We were desperate to do a sub-50 minute time and to do that we needed an average speed of 14.4kmph. Unfortunately, we got a piece of weed in the rudder and our average speed dropped down to 14.3kmph, so we finished just shy of a sub-50-minute time. “Other than that, it was a great paddle, and it was probably the hardest we’ve paddled since the 2019 World Championships in China (when the Auckland-based pair struck K2 masters gold).” Garth and Vaughan are keen to post another time at the New Zealand Virtual Paddling Championships – yet are currently undecided where they will make their next tilt over the 12km distance. “The jury is still out for me whether the fastest time is going to be on flat water or moving water because it is so hard to judge on moving water,” he explains. “You might have a good speed one way and then crap speed the other way against the current. I think it is more likely that the fastest speed is going to be recorded on flat water on Lake Pupuke but you have to be super careful with the weed. “If you want to get really technical there is a different buoyancy between salt water and freshwater. You are definitely higher up on salt water, so times should be faster.” Besides their efforts in the K2 – Garth and Vaughan have also posted K1 times of 54:21 and 54:22, respectively, and are huge devotees of the concept of the Virtual Champs. The competition acts as good preparation for the duo as they look to compete at next month’s Heads to Harbour (Apr 3) in Whakatane – which doubles as the New Zealand Surf Ski Champs – and the New Zealand Kayak Marathon Championships in Bay of Plenty (Apr 10-11) as well as the rescheduled 2021 New Zealand Canoe Sprint Championships in May. However, besides using the Virtual Paddling Champs for their own personal goals there is another more general reason for the paddling community to come out in support of the event, according to Garth. “You can see how some of the clubs have been struggling with Covid – it has been hard on them,” he adds. “The CRNZ initiative with the virtual champs is amazing because it keeps the paddlers inspired and out on the water. It is amazing time of year to paddle, the back end of summer before we lose the weather. It has been great to see people from all around the country involved and that the club scene is alive and well because it has been hard on all of them.” Impressing in the K1 and K2, Garth is also keen to post a K4 time alongside Vaughan, Kingi Gilbert and Andy Logue and has laid down the challenge for the men’s squad in Karapiro to also register a K4 time. “There’s been a lot of chatter about K4 challenges but the NZ men’s kayak squad have been very quiet,” he says. “We are waiting to hear of a challenge from them!”
***Elsewhere, women’s single ski leader Carly Keys (see image above with Tara Smith) is seeking an alternative course in an effort to dip below the 60-minute barrier during the remainder of the New Zealand Virtual Paddling Champs. The 35-year-old wife of men’s single ski leader, Ben Keys, recorded a time of 1:00:16 around Lyttelton Harbour last week and at the weekend went to number one on the overall standings in the women’s double-ski with a 57:01 clocking at the same venue alongside fellow South Islander Tara Smith. “I’ve had a few cracks in the single ski and the best one came at Lyttelton Harbour, which seems to be an alright course,” she adds. “I’ve been hurting trying to crack the one-hour mark (which she achieved at the 2020 New Zealand Virtual Surf Ski Champs with a 59:48 time) and I’m gunning for that again. “I might try and line up a better tide course because the one that I’ve been doing (at Lyttleton Harbour) is a three-lapper, so you are hiding from the tide and then jumping out of the tide when you can. I might try a course where the tide is a bit better, although other times I’ve tried that it is tide versus the wind, which has been annoying.” Carly has also not ruled out another double ski paddle later in the event – but this time with husband Ben.