Ocean Series Race 2 Lion Island Challenge (Australia)

Monday, 11 October 2010 19:07 | Written by  Jamie Stewart
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Ominous Weather! Ominous Weather! Credits: Alan Coker

By 10:30am this morning there were 150 weary, windblown but satisfied paddlers waiting for the prize giving in the relative shelter of Governor Phillip Park at Pittwater. Conditions for the 2010 Alto Land Rover Lion Island Challenge were tricky to say the least and even the most experienced paddlers were tested.

Tim Jacobs took the race out again, hitting the beach well clear of Murray Stewart in 2nd, Nathan Smith 3rd, Cade Barnes 4th and Michael Locke fifth. This makes it two from two for Tim in the Bing Lee LG Ocean Series, in association with Epic Kayaks, and raises the question once again – who out there can take this series away from the chippy-turned-coach now that he’s hitting his stride? At the very least it would appear that the Tim vs Murray dice is back on: Freshwater vs Manly, old vs young, coach vs athlete, balding head vs thick mop.


Lion Island Challenge

The Briefing

This race was also the fourth in the Australian Ocean Racing Series and the results today will put the New South Wales paddlers well into the series standings.


Arriving at the rego this morning I felt a serious sense of déjà vu – the stiff breeze, the ominous dark skies and weather-beaten setting all felt terribly similar to last year. Despite the southeasterly, there were fantastic runs from Barrenjoey Headland back to South Palmy (heading south), but not heading back. Fortunately, the big east runs down to Lion Island were out there, not to mention the awesome waves around Lion Island, that provided a bit of rest before the slog to the finish.

Dash for Cash

The Dash for Cash (Murray took the photo)

The race course is simple: start in the flat of Pittwater, dash for cash at 800m, around Barrenjoey Headland to South Palm Beach, hang a u-turn back toward Lion Island, around the island and home! There are only two turning buoys, and lots of very clear natural landmarks to follow. The course can be split into 8 pretty unique stretches of water:

-          2 solid downwind with great runs,

-          1 catching waves around an island,

-          2 negotiating the bump around Barrenjoey Headland,

-          1 upwind and

-          2 flat slogs (the first and last 2km).

Conditions like today’s are a true test of the versatility of a paddler. More than one paddler’s race has been won or lost when, after racing for 12km in mostly chop, a paddler blows up in the relative flat to the finish.

Out to sea...

Out to Sea

Brett Greenwood and his organising team from Avalon LSC did a fantastic job once again, putting on a first class race. This year’s highlights included a huge amount of prize money as well as some great lucky draw prizes, such as a Land Rover for a weekend and a brand new Epic V10 Sport.

Brett puts a huge amount of work into this race, and I know that he’ll be debriefing right now to work out how he can improve next year (no time like the present, right?).

Nailed the Start

In particular, they managed to nail the start, setting an example of which will hopefully be followed in races from now on. It seems like such a simple thing, but it’s been a real problem in Sydney over the years. Apparently Aussies can’t manage to get in a straight line and go at the starter’s gun! So what did Brett do right today? Lots of water safety vessels controlling the start line, very clear instructions and a very loud hooter, but most importantly; the believable threat that any person seen deliberately breaking the start would be disqualified on the spot and would be ineligible for prizes. The result? No breaking and a very controlled start from paddlers. Unfortunately a small group was obstructed by the photographer’s boat, but I’ve been assured (by the paddlers themselves) that this did not have a significant impact on the results.

Lion Island Challenge

The leaders rounding Barrenjoey Headland

Dash for Cash

Predictably, the $250 dash for cash and $500 for first place meant that the engines were revving on the start line. Unfortunately for the other 149 of us, Murray Stewart had somehow smuggled a turbo charged formula one engine onto his boat and reached the hotspot over 3 boat lengths ahead. The cheeky bugger even stopped and turned around to see where the rest of the field was.

Murray Stewart

Dash for Cash Winner Murray Stewart heading for South Palmy

TJ Rules

Unfortunately for Murray the lead didn’t last long, with TJ catching him in the runs to South Palm Beach. From there, TJ did what he does best and controlled the race, pulling away in the runs to Lion Island. Nathan kept Murray in his sights all the way around Lion Island but just couldn’t hold on in the flat to the finish and was dropped with about a kilometre to go.

Tim Jacobs

Tim Jacobs the first to South Palm Beach with Murray and Nathan in pursuit

Interestingly, only two of the top six paddlers today are from Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Nathan Smith (3rd) is from Cronulla in the south, Cade Barnes (4th) and Michael Locke (5th) are from Wollongong (even further south) and Adam Rowe is from Newcastle (an hour north). It is safe to say that, with the exception of the lads from Byron Bay, New South Wales’ finest paddlers were there today.

Lion Island Challenge - podium

Top 6 (L to R): Brett Greenwood (Avalon SLC) Cade Barnes 4th, Nathan Smith 3rd, Adam Rowe 6th, Michael Lock 5th, Murray Stewart 2nd, Tim Jacobs 1st (Absent)

Women’s Race

The womens’ race followed a familiar pattern, with Lauren Smith from Wollongong beating Mel Pelly from Manly. Lauren looks set to dominate the series this year, and whilst Mel (who is training to defend her title in the female masters Coolangatta Gold) has assured me she’ll get Lauren one day, today was not her time. Newcomer Scott Smith took out the juniors, coming in 12th overall, ahead of series leader Tim Kirkby.

Lion Island Challenge - Women

Top 3: (L to R) Mel Pelly 2nd, Lauren Smith 1st , Penny Locke 3rd

Serious Challenge

The 2010 Alto Land Rover Lion Island Challenge seriously was a challenge. It was also great fun, and everyone who finished will come away with a sense of achievement. Next race is the Bondi to Watsons Bay Ocean Race on 23 October. Until then, I’m going to try to figure out how best to use my lucky draw prize of a Land Rover for a weekend …


Jamie’s weekend getaway choices … courtesy Alto Landrover

Full results at www.oceanseries.com.au

More photos

There are some more great pics at: http://tinyurl.com/LionIslandPics

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