by Ian McGuinness
Sue and I had not considered paddling the Myall at any point during the year, with our last race being the Marathon at Windsor in early August.
After several failed attempts to sell our beloved SLR2, we decided to take it off the market and a last minute decision saw us register for the 27km race.
As we had left our planning to the last minute, we both worked the Friday and left Cronulla at around 5 pm on the Friday and found ourselves fighting the City traffic heading north, and then became locked into the north heading vortex of the M1 motorway.
I’m sure B Double trucks are speed limited as well as P plate drivers, but that didn’t seem to slow either of them down. Driving in those conditions with an SLR2 on top really tests your nerve.
Arriving at around 9 pm, we had found our luxurious 2 man tent already erected by the wonderful club members too numerous to thank individually……………I do hear it was really a team effort, so thank you to all those involved.
Overnight the wind continued to blow, and I lay awake thinking of what the following day would bring in the first quarter and last quarter of the race, given my previous experience with Greg 2 years ago.
For those who have not paddled the Myall before, this particular area is very susceptible to any windy conditions, and can make for some swimming time if you’re not careful.
Arising early(but not too early, unlike Gareth who had been chomping at the bit) we had a light breakfast and headed off to the start where we watched the early starters of the 47km race.
SSCC had 18 starters(by my count), which is no mean feat, with paddlers competing in each of the three distances.
After watching Bob school the student competitors in pre-race behaviour, we made it through scrutiny and onto beach and into the water awaiting our start.
Even at this point I could feel the wind making an impact as we kept the boat straight against a strengthening north wind.
Bob started the race and we were off, making our way west to the first turn into the wind. The first turn was a cracker, as we were neck and neck with a double canoe, with another competitor between us trying to squeeze between us as we rounded the marker. We thanked that paddler for his efforts as we had to change course rapidly to avoid a collision.
The paddle up river started and immediately we encountered very strong winds causing standing waves. As I turned my head to Sue to ask if she was OK, she replied “Shut up I’m concentrating”.
Onwards we paddled, over the shallow flats and against both the tide and wind, making for a punishing paddle to the turn around point.
I was annoying Sue as I had set up my drink tube incorrectly and must have looked like a dog trying to drink from a tap as I chased my hose with my head as it bounced around annoyingly close to my mouth, but never close enough.
Think I’ll need to invest in a patented Bingle drink hose support before too long.
We had some good company with Jack in his SLR1, whom we kept swapping leads, and a limpet mine who wash rode the both of us until the turn around point.
What a relief the turn around made with both the tide and wind behind us.
Half way back we took a wrong left turn that cost us about 3 minutes, but we were soon back on course and ready to face the next 3 tests.
I had held off telling Sue what Greg and I had experienced when the rear facing and off to the left wind did as we paddled the Myall 2 years ago, but she soon realised for herself what had occurred.
With continuous wind waves coming at us from the rear quarter, and throwing the boat around nose first, and taking in waves from the side, Sue was pumping furiously on the patented Archibald foot pump to keep us afloat as the contents of the boat swam around us.
We passed this test with flying colours as we made our way to the next open water and faced …….
Same conditions, but worse, but now I could face the boat with the running waves and Sue had her first surfing lesson in the SLR2 as the boat ran over and onto each wind chop as we made our way home. Bracing was only required on a couple of occasions as the SLR2 is a fantastic boat which meets even the worst conditions, without the fear of falling out.
As we passed this section and conditions eased a bit, I said to Sue that it was an easy road home from here to the finish line, but then we met the incoming tide on the last corner which made for a confused sea with wind waves, chop and altered wind conditions making for a fun ride home until we finally reached a point where it settled on the last straight leg back, only to be greeted by a large ferry type boat pumping out boat wash to our right front quarter……….
Finished at last , and as we pulled the boat from the water and made our way up the 2 foot high hill onto the grass, my legs gave out and I found myself going backwards until I could regain my balance.
What the racers in the 47 km race were going through showed up in their faces as they all made their way safely back to shore; this Myall was one tough race, but ALL the SSCC paddlers who competed returned and were able to finish.
Thanks once again to the SSCC paddlers for a great weekend, and to Bob for organising the race. Thanks also to Robbo for his help over the weekend