Paddle Polaris [54]

By David Whyte

A huge swarm of mosquitoes was hovering in front of me but I dare not stand as I would give the position of the checkpoint away.

I was hiding in the swamp in Bumbo Lake next to a blow up plastic shark. I had been there for 20 minutes waiting for someone to appear.

When finally I did see someone I had to crouch down amongst the reeds until they had managed to work out the checkpoint location themselves. And who should appear but Kevin and Claudia.

This was the second day of the Polaris Paddle challenge and I was in my kayak trying to get around to as many checkpoints as I could to photograph the competitors. I had one close shave with my camera gear when I hopped out of the kayak right next to the bank to quickly sink up to my chest in water. I just managed to keep the camera above my heard as I struggled ashore.

The first day I was given a rubber ducky and a driver but even then it took some effort to find the paddlers. I didn’t realize Tuross Lakes was such a maze of waterways and channels and it was often difficult to find anyone. Some groups had heaps of photos taken of them and others none. There were sections that were very shallow which would have been annoying to the real speed paddlers. And yet by a chance coincidence wherever I went Claudia and Kevin would appear.

I pulled in down some side road on the way to the campsite to notice a couple of blokes running very solidly. I managed to sprint to get a shot of them passing some cows but these blokes weren’t stopping. There was serious running being done this weekend and I think Huw is going to change it so it’s more paddling next year. It was good to see it wasn’t one of the running teams that won. I heard of one group who pulled their kayak into the bank and set off on a 20 km run to the check point. Unfortunately for them they hadn’t tied their kayak up and they came back to find it had drifted away.

This is a great kayak event and I would encourage as many Club members to have a go in it next year. And what grade is it? Grade 1 or 2 or 3 or even 4. It’s entirely up to you. You can have a lovely day’s paddle stopping for coffee and lunch or go flat out all day. I noticed a few groups had bottles of wine at the camp that they had carried all day. And you are still eligible for the lucky door prize no matter how few points you get — this year is was a brand new Pittarak Expedition kayak.

The winners of the Veteran class were our very own David Winkworth and Laurie Geoghegan. Trevor Gardner and Mark Berry had accumulated a massive 120 points in the first few hours before Trevor dislocated his shoulder. They still managed more points than some teams had collected over the entire day. Claudia and Kevin came third in their class and there were a number of NSWSKC members acting as safety paddlers as well.


A Quick Report From the Event Organiser, Huw Kingston

The arms ache a little less, the scratches on the legs are healing (on a kayaking event!) and Tuross Lakes is reclaimed by pelicans and fishermen. Thanks for being part of this year’s event. We sure hit upon perfect conditions, all the more appreciated given the coolness and strong winds of Friday. On Monday too, the rolling surf had been replaced by some dumping monsters. We were indeed lucky.

As with all Polaris events it was great to see the mix of competitiveness and all out fun. That is the beauty of the format — it’s up to you how hard, how far and how fast you go.

Whilst we set some checkpoints as ones to run to, we were surprised by the amount of running some teams did over the two days. Given we had the likes of Nigel Aylott, World Rogaining Champion and recently back from second place in the world’s richest adventure race, the Primal Quest, we shouldn’t have been so surprised. Certainly Tuross Lakes led itself to running whereas at other venues (such as Lake Eucumbene last year) it just would not have occurred. Our general view is that the Paddle Polaris should develop as a paddling event not a multisports event. I’m sure you’ll find that in 2004, there won’t be anything like the running that occurred in 2003!

Rob Russell/Gillean Hilton have replaced the Paddle Polaris trophy back on the dust outline from which they removed it a few days ago in Melbourne. They did extremely well to retain the trophy (and Gill even won the Sea to Summit Paddle Toss at the overnight camp). Interestingly enough, they paddled much of the weekend with Gordon Schoffl/Steven Cannon in their wake in that ‘not quite a sea kayak’ craft (after hours spent on Saturday night fashioning knives, forks and spoons to try and fix their rudder—it all soon fell apart on the Sunday in the shallows of the lakes). Rob and Gill covered some 50 km on the 7 hour Saturday and 45 km on the 6 hour Sunday for their 560 point winning tally. In the end it was only their visit to checkpoint 7 on Fred’s Island that won them the race by 10 points over Steven and Gordon. Steve Cooper/Michael Gillan put up a great fight for third place with 530 points. Nigel Aylott/Ian Franzke recovered from the disastrous loss of 200 penalty points on Saturday to claw their way to fourth place by the end.

Doubles have some advantages in speed but suffer in the narrow, shallow channels and portages. Jason Baldwin/Dan Smith finished as the leading Singles team with 486 points in fifth overall. Dan was also the lucky winner of the Pittarak Expedtion sea kayak, put up by our kayak sponsor Pittarak. Jason was also the winner of the Tuross River Classic, the paddling (forwards), running (in the river), paddling backwards) race at the overnight camp.

Few teams took on the challenge of the surf. Of those that did, Trevor Gardner/Mark Berry went home with a dislocated shoulder (Trevor’s well on the mend) and Laurie Geoghegan/Dave Winkworth took out the Veterans Singles category and eighth overall. The Winning Team