by Janet Small
Greg R and I were happy to have an uneventful Sutherland marathon in John D’s “safety boat” tinny. We had an excellent vantage point for watching the race and taking photos, especially since we were the “roving” safety boat unlike the SES safety boats that stayed in a fixed location for the duration *yawn *.
We also had a specific job to do – accompanying 7 year old Hayley, the marathon’s tiny star, on her 5km race. First we watched each division start the race from a plum spot tucked into the “island” with the divisions coming straight towards our boat from the start line. If only I had a good camera. Division 7 took off at picnic paddle pace followed by Division 1 who paddled as if they meant it. They put on a flurry of jostling activity with water spraying from the paddle blades. From then on each division looked more languid than the one before.
Hayley’s division was the last to leave the start line. We began our trip to Prince Edward Park, puttering along behind little Hayley. She looked great in her Mini Sonic and paddled beautifully. The rest of her division pulled away and the poor little thing was paddling alone on a strange river. I was worried Hayley would hear the engine and think some power boat psychos were after her. Greg assured me she had been told a boat would stay nearby. Near to Prince Edward Park, Hayley started looking tired and took a few breaks from paddling. She started heading to the maroon buoy, which was not the turning buoy. When i urged her to keep paddling under the bridge and towards the yellow marker buoys, she stopped paddling and looked up at me without speaking. I thought she was going to burst into tears but she slowiy lifted her paddle and began to paddle again.
On the home run, Hayley picked up the pace. She was no longer paddling by herself and nearly every paddler spoke encouraging words when they overtook. One real power boat passed in the opposite direction. Greg and I felt a pang of anxiety for our little charge, but Hayley knew exactly how to handle the wake. I think our little champion was very happy to finish her race and gave a big smile when the spectators cheered her to the finish line.The rest of the race went smoothly on our patrol of the course. We cheered our mates from SSCC. When it got boring we contemplated speeding up the boat so that paddlers would fall in and need rescuing. It was a very cold morning sitting on the river. The time however went pretty fast and soon enough we were on dry land, thawing out with cups of hot tea and congratulating the paddlers.
Thanks Greg for your company and good driving in the boat. And thanks Greg T for the club beanie, which kept my head lovely and warm out on the cold river.