King of the Bay Race Report
Seven weeks ago I was parked on the couch lazy, unfit and unmotivated. While mucking about on my phone, I received an email with the calendar race dates for Durban’s winter Surfski Series. To cut a long story short, I put my A into G, got off the couch, started the first ever Durban Surfski Boot Camp, and got training all with the express aim of making a good showing at the King of the Bay race. That race was yesterday and here is how it went.
The King of the Bay is unique in that it starts in flat water, on the water. Most Durban Races start on the beach and one has to negotiate the surf zone which can play havoc with tactical positioning. But with the King of the Bay, you have the opportunity to line up right next to the paddlers that will pull you through the flat section of the harbour. I took full advantage and got off to a great start, and found a fast wave immediately. I settled into a rhythm that I hoped I could hold for 22km! The group split up after a few km as a few of the faster guys started attacking. A we were finally left with a group of 3. Rule no.1 on this race is never take up the pull while still in the harbour. I managed to leave the harbour having only pulled for perhaps 1.5 km of the 8 km harbour leg and with a great avg of 12.9 km/hr.
We headed into open ocean with a light SW at our backs and a leftover sea from the SW gale the day before. I kept right, trying to get away from the shelter of the harbour piers and hopefully find the runs a bit earlier. As soon as the runs lined up with turning mark 6 km away I turned and ended up on a middle line. Quite a few paddlers went a bit deeper which I think was a mistake as I easily moved ahead. I knew the last 6 km were going to be into a headwind with the potential for huge losses if you did not have quite a bit of gas in the tank. Being short of mileage in my preparation this was a serious risk for me, so I really took the downwind leg easy, only putting an effort in when there was a wave to catch. This worked well as I got to the bottom mark well ahead of my rivals but still feeling strong. Those ahead had pulled away and I had been caught by one person but at least I was strong for the way home.
The final leg was a slog. The single that caught me managed to pull ahead and I spent most of the leg grinding him down, successfully. Having this task to focus on making the leg much easier than if I had been paddling alone. But in the end, he was too strong and beat me on to the beach. I managed 24th in singles and 6th vet. I beat all my markers and felt good. All goals achieved and the training is well on track for a great season.
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