The Inaugural Water Aid Race for the Golden Sock Trophy [63]

By Peter Osman

Staggering towards me is a windswept rain-drenched President. There’s a storm warning and she’s clutching coffee as we survey a desolate beach. This was the 27th _ the day that wasn’t – the day the Bureau of Meteorology decided to call a storm warning for the inner harbour as 7 knot winds howled wildly around us!

“Lets #$@^$#@ paddle anyway”, ET says, and as we’re joined by a stalwart group of diehards, the storm has increased to no more than 11 knots. So off we go.

Well, that was the 27th – the day we cancelled the race. But now it’s 12 February and the sun is bright, the winds are non-existent and Sally and Stephan have duly set up Camp Temptation at Bantry Bay with numerous flasks of coffee and bags of muffins. It is their sworn duty to slow down or stop competitors – not by force but with seduction – it’s going to be a tough race!! A 10km sprint of pure hell as competitors dodge the ferrys, pleasure craft and each other, while trying to find every check point along the way, only to be confronted with a cup of coffee and a muffin at the halfway point.

So, what was this all about? Well, it was the Water Aid Race for the Golden Sock trophy (only Fishkiller understands the true significance of the Golden Sock Trophy. Refer to Issue #50 NSW Sea Kayaker). Water Aid Australia is a group that helps organize water and sanitation in remote communities. If you want to know how to set up toilet facilities for a 1000 AIDS orphans on a remote school-farm in Kenya, then Water Aid is one good place to go. And seeing that they have water as their theme and we have water as ours, it seemed like a good idea to have a bash at raising some money with a race on the harbour.

It was also a demonstrator to those shadowy figures that control Sydney Harbour that us innocent kayakers can organise events safely and without disturbing the local residents, racers, ferry captains, water police and the mermaid that sits around the corner from the Spit Bridge. You don’t believe me! I assure you she is there – take a careful look as you train for next year’s race!

Anyway it can’t have been such a bad idea as 28 competitors entered the race with five being one day members eligible for the Outside Challenge Medallion, while club members competed for the Golden Sock.

The race kicked off at 9:45 from Clontarf and finished with our guest star the Irish Pirate Queen, Granuáile, being plucked from disaster off a foundering ship by a bold Scotsman from the local coast guard. She then intrepidly walked the plank across a local swimming pool to finally reach the shore and awarded prizes to:

  • Mark Schroeder — Water Aid Trophy & Men’s Golden Sock Award with a time of 1:01:09 (handicapped at 0:59:52)
  • Kerrie Claffey — Women’s Golden Sock Award with a time of 1:15:07 (handicapped at 1:01:04)
  • Shane Mulholland — Outside Challenge with a time of 1:05:44 (handicapped at 1:02:54)

And last but bravest of all — Harry Havu — Most impressive hat!

Also honourable mentions to Rob Mercer and Claudia Schremmer who came in with the fastest times but both missed first place on technicalities. Talk about grace under pressure. Well done and better luck next year!

Kerrie, our Golden Sock Awardee, made the following analysis in a breathless interview following the race.

“How did you feel coming in first?”

“Well actually I didn’t come in first, Claudia did — was tempted to feel a bit guilty at first — but soon realised that Claudia had a HUGE advantage by saving all that drag caused by the PFD – and if I’d been given true credit (handicap) for my advanced years, then age, experience and cunning would have flogged youth, skill and dexterity anyway! So I totally enjoyed the wine, biccies, etc and a well deserved massage by Sally!”

MUCH LATER. “Can I please add that I finally had my massage with Sally (the highlight of the prize) last week and it was fan-bloody-tastic – she’s obviously learnt from all those years of massaging just how much pressure and where to apply it to give maximum benefit while stopping short of pain!”

“Your true and unbiased opinion of the hats?”

“Nice hats, pity about the colour! (actually all things have a place in life and given that my darling husband, Tom, just refuses to wear ‘nice’ colours, I always buy him the darkest, dimmest, murkiest item on the rack and he just loves it – so I just knew the hats would be a winner with him!!)”

“What did you think of the cancelled race?”

“Well, if it had to be cancelled, it had to be cancelled – but ‘real men’ would have paddled thru the storm!”

“How could we do better next time?”

“On a serious note, how about a ‘proper’distance? At least 20km like the State marathons – make ’em work for the prize! And a ‘proper’ start (not staggered) so we get the feel of ‘racing’ across the line!”

“The toughest part of the race?”

“Navigation – you need a GPS!!”

“The Coffee Temptation controversy?”

“OOOOH tough one — NEVER be lulled into that false sense of security that people are ‘not competitive’ and are only out there ‘for fun’ – hog wash! There’s nothing like a win, especially when there’s a massage at stake – so don’t expect many customers for the coffee!!”

Thanks for the analysis Kerrie!! The diuretic properties of coffee have been brought to our notice. Next year it will be lemonade and cucumber sandwiches with no crusts – you can’t say we don’t try!!

And thanks to everyone for participating. We wound up raising $1081.10 for Water Aid Australia also a $50 donation made to NSW Coastal patrol.

Many thanks to our sponsors:

Sydney Harbour Kayaks and Body Corporate Remedial Massage who contributed to the excellent prizes. The NSW Coastal Patrol who patrolled the course with their rescue vessel, Manly Council and Waterways who navigated us safely through the bureaucracy. And Mark Sundin who provided a wonderful line in sun hats from Talisman Marketing.

Finally and most importantly thank you to our volunteers:

Dee Ratcliffe, Elizabeth Thomson, Granuáile, Helen Muller, Henry Van der Kolk, Ian Coles, Marie Stepan, Mark Berry, Mike Steinfeld, Naomi Osman, Paul Fitzgerald, Paul Loker, Peter Kappelmann, Rob Hollow, Sally Jacobs, Stephan Meyn and all the NSWSKC Committee for their support and patience with this event.

PS. …And most importantly, the biggest thank you goes to Peter Osman. The race was his baby. Without his enthusiasm, creativity, bureaucratic patience and bloody hard work, the event simply would not have happened. So thank YOU, Peter.

Elizabeth Thomson