She may have a new last name, but that didn’t stop Rachel Mayhew nee Clarke’s winning streak as she took home her 10th Auckland Queen of the Harbour crown on Saturday at the 2022 Vaikobi Auckland King and Queen of the Harbour, which also saw record numbers of paddlers on the water at Takapuna.
This win meant Rachel, who recently married fellow paddler Sam Mayhew, equals the record held by Katie Pocock, who led the way through the noughties. Rachel won on debut in 2013, and has dominated the race since.
Her victory was never in doubt, with Rachel taking the lead off the start, leading around the Rangitoto lighthouse and the northern side of Rangitoto Island, before turning back towards Takapuna and racing home to win in a time of 1.36.05, 11th overall. Behind her, the battle for second place was on between Danika Mowlem and Rebecca Cole, who went bow to bow for about 8km, chasing little runners around the iconic Auckland volcano. Danika managed to get a small wave and get a gap before the first turning buoy before and extended the lead on the way home to take 2nd place (1.39.34), with Rebecca finishing the 19km loop course in 1.43.29. Fifteen year old Poppy Barnes from Waitara was 4th overall and 1st junior (18 and under), closely followed by Isla Westlake and Hannah Baxter in the junior division.
In the men’s race, Ocean Ski Canterbury's Ben Keys was commanding to win for the second year running in Auckland. 3 groups formed off the start with Ben, Travis Mitchell and Tupuria King settling together across the channel, before Ben made his move as they reached the lighthouse. He pulled away, working the small runners around the island. On the final leg home, he had a close fought race with the double ski of Andy Logue and Craig Simpkins, who caught him and eventually pulled ahead to take the line honours, but Ben was first single ski home in 1hour 27minutes and 16 seconds.
“Super stoked to get another King of the Harbour win.” said Ben. “It was great day out, a well-run race and awesome to see so many paddlers on the water. It was a tough slog out there, especially the final run home where the double was keeping me honest. It’s been great having some close racing this season with Tupu and some new younger paddlers showing up to events and pushing hard.”
Tupu, who has been focusing on waka paddling this summer rather than ski, came home in second place, just 10 seconds ahead of third placed Sam Newlands, followed by Travis Mitchell who was the first Master paddler across the line. Michael Esterhuizen was the first under 23 male and Cameron Gilmore was first junior (and first specski).
It was great to have some a good field of junior paddlers this year, possibly courtesy of the entry fee discount given to paddlers 18 years and under.
It was a strong male waka ama field this year, with Narada Bury coming out on top (1.39.49) ahead of Simon Wolfgram (1.41.59) and Carl Barnes (1.43.16). It was also a close race in the stand up paddleboard event, with 18year old Fergus Dunlop (2.05.36) first, ahead of a tight tussle between Matt Anderson (2.07.24) and Jan Dunlop (2.07.41). Rosara Davis at just 14years old took out the womens race in 2hours 26minutes.
The short course event was hugely popular this year as an introduction into longer races for junior paddlers, or a short sharp race for more experienced paddlers. Over half the field were under 16 and there were enough paddlers to recognise junior age groups for all genders.
Andrew Stevens took line honours in the 6km race along Takapuna Beach, followed by Ali Boggs (first female) and Bruce Sayer in his first major ski race. Grace Richardson and Cole Frazer, both of BOP Paddlesports, took out the U16 race, while Rory Orman and Poppy Richardson took out the U14 ages groups.
The cancellation and last minute rescheduling of the race didn’t appear to hurt interest or entries in the event. There were a record 161 paddlers take to the sea for this event, which was an awesome spectacle and a great showcase of paddling, with lots of new names and faces taking part in their first major ocean ski race. Only the 2017 race had more entries which was the result of a large international contingent of international paddlers. This was the final event of the 2021/22 Darcy Price NZ Ocean racing series.
Thanks as always go to event organisers and volunteers, who help make the event happen and ensure everyone gets home safely. Thank you to sponsors Vaikobi, Kayak HQ and NZ Paddle Sports for their generous support and to all the paddlers for showing up and supporting events.