Race Report from the big "O"!
Race day dawned after a big pre-race party where little Dutch elves kept putting a drink in my hand -- and they were large Jopen beers! With a 30 knot off shore wind and temps around 15C, it was not my typical race day like in Durban. We ate breakfast, keenly away that we didn't want to be late for the noon start as had happened when I last raced in Sweden.
After the briefing, the big decision was what to wear as I am not used to the nippy weather, made colder still by the wind chill. With the wind now howling up to 30 knots straight off shore, I lined up on the beach next to Boyan and Joep Van Bakel. The gun sounded and I hobbled down to the water -- you tend to do this when you are over 50 and had 3 too many beers the night before!
I got into the water in roughly 4th place and suddenly realised that last nights festivities, too much travel and not enough training was rearing its ugly head. I went straight for the slip of Emiel Beukenkamp & a paddler from Belgium, was also paddling well next to us so when Joep eased past us, I had to make a decision: chase him now and get on his tail slip or let him go. My pounding head and heart rate suggested I do the later so I opted to stay on Emiel's tail slip ...until Robin Koenders went past and Emiel didn't respond.
Of course, no matter how bad I'm feeling, the racer in me kicks in: I needed to do something about Robin pulling away. I pushed hard and caught Robin and in the process pulled Emiel and Rick Damen with me. Robin set the pace and went directly to the turning buoy which put us in a lot of waves and wind. Joep, just back from the World Marathon Champs in Denmark, stayed very close to shore out of the wind and waves. Benoit Le Roux was also on the inside but we were going faster then him. Just before the turning buoy I wasn't felt worse still and dropped off the pack by a few meters. I had timed the split between Joep and myself to be 2 minutes and 10 seconds, which in a downwind would be no problem but I was tired and the waves were side-on and very small when we turned. I was disappointed that there was actually nothing to surf that was going any faster than when we were going against the wind, but I did over take the guys in my bunch and was trying to catch Joep -- with no effect as I was out of gas.
Robin was staying with me and I wasn't pulling away although I suspect I was doing a lot less effort than him. I realized that i had no chance of catching Joep but as we headed out to the last buoy about 2.5km off shore there were some side ways runs. What kicked me into action, seeing Benoit on my left pulling level peg with me. With waves to work with I started paddling with purpose, catching lots of runs and pulling away from Robin, Emiel and Benoit.
I still had no clue where the buoy was until Arjan came out with the rib boat and then I could see the buoy and Joep who was now about 1 minute ahead of me. I slowed down and let Benoit catch up as there is no way I was going to paddle on my own against the wind in the 2.5 km final leg into the wind on my own. I am not into that at my age and stage of conditioning. I turned with Benoit about 1 minute behind Joep. Benoit set the pace in the hunt and I just stayed on his tail slip. About half way to the finish I looked back and couldn't see a paddler behind me so I decided to cruise to the finish as Joep was out of reach and I didn't have it in me to challenge Benoit. Joep won comfortably from Benoit. I was third, Robin was 4th with Emiel in 5th.
Regardless of my position, it was a great race staged under most challenging conditions. The organizers did not lose a person -- under the circumstances a job well done. The food and service provided by the Riche Club was amazing and the organisation excellent. I am sure this race will grow to be one of the races on the surfski calendar not to be missed next year. I thank Surfski Holland committee and Arjan Bloem for being such great hosts. Regards
Posted on January 23, 2014 by pG