2012 Steelcase Dragon Run - World Series Decider?

Sunday, 04 November 2012 18:20 | Written by 
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Lining up for the 2011 Dragon Run - won by Tim Jacobs Lining up for the 2011 Dragon Run - won by Tim Jacobs

The sixth edition of the Dragon Run will take place on Saturday, 10 November and it’s set to be a cracker – in more ways than one.

Oceanpaddler World Series

The Steelcase Dragon Run is the penultimate race in this year’s Oceanpaddler World Series.  The final event is the new Cape Town World Cup, which is scheduled for 16 December.

Several factors make the Dragon Run critical for any paddler vying for top spot:

  • It’s an A-grade race, which means the winner takes 520 points.
  • It’s likely that there will be fewer than 100 surfski paddlers, which means that the points interval between positions will be 4 points…

What does this mean?

  1. You can’t hope to be series champion without attending – and being on the podium.
  2. If you beat someone by two places, the points difference will be 2 x 4 = 8.

Mocke Brothers

Dawid Mocke currently leads the rankings with 2,570 points (after discards).  His younger brother Jasper is running second with 2,564 – a mere 6 point difference.

Dawid Mocke

Dawid Mocke wins the 2012 Mauritius Ocean Classic

Jasper Mocke

Jasper Mocke on his way to winning the Breizh Ocean Race in Quiberon Bay, France

So…  if Jasper beats Dawid by two places in Hong Kong… we’ll have a new leader on the rankings board, with one race to go and...

The Cape Town World Cup is likely to very well supported by the locals – the organisers are expecting paddlers from all over South Africa to congregate in the Cape in December… That means that the points difference between the positions in Cape Town will be 1 – so a paddler who needs to make up a large number of points will have to beat is opponent by a larger number of places than in Hong Kong!

Fiercely Competitive Field

Now consider that the top end of the race is going to be fiercely competitive in Hong Kong…  Try some of these names for size:

  • Dawid Mocke (SA) (two-time winner)
  • Tim Jacobs (Aus) (two-time winner and defending champion)
  • Jasper Mocke (SA)
  • Jeremy Cotter (Aus)
  • Hank McGregor (SA)
  • Michael Booth (Aus)
  • Sean Rice (SA)
  • Matt Bouman (SA)
  • Grant van der Walt (SA)
  • Cory Hill (Aus)

Throw in a couple of the top European paddlers from the Nelo team, such as Walter Bouzan (Spain) (who gave Jasper Mocke a run for his money in the recent world series races in Europe) and Andre Santos (Portugal), it’s going to be an achievement to crack a top 10 result.

The highly experienced Oscar Chalupsky and Dean Gardiner will be paddling – Chalupsky won Molokai in May; Gardiner won the Maraa’mu race in Tahiti in September, both outstanding results…  If the wind blows and the Dragon Run turns into a cranking downwind, don’t discount these two.

Last year’s top five are all racing again… In 2011 it was:

  1. Tim Jacobs
  2. Dawid Mocke
  3. Hank McGregor
  4. Cory Hill
  5. Jasper Mocke

Points, points, points

Currently lying third in the world rankings is Jeremy Cotter – 26 points behind Jasper Mocke.   Converting places to points, that means he’s going to need to beat the Mocke brothers by 5 positions to get to the top of the rankings – and that’s not likely on the current form of both Dawid and Jasper.

But between the Mockes… it’s all to play for.

Women’s Race

[Update] Michele Eray’s welcome return to racing saw her win the Nelo Summer Challenge in September this year and she’s my pick to take the 2012 Dragon Run.  My pick for second is Aussie Naomi Flood...  The race for third place, however, is less easy to pick: the talented young French paddler Angie Mouden is paddling her first Dragon Run and will be up against the experienced Australian Ruth Highman.

2011 Dragon Run

Here's Rambo's video of last year's race.  (Rambo is back to film again this year.)


Technical Course

The Dragon Run is a favorite for many reasons – not least being the nature of the course, which is technically challenging.

For one thing the waves, although seldom massive, tend to ricochet off the steep sided islands that crowd the seas off Hong Kong.  This effect is most noticeable near Cape D’Aguilar (aka the Kissing Whales) where a maelstrom of klapotis greets the paddlers before they make the right hand turn towards the finish in Stanley Bay.

Here's my (very mediocre) track from last year:

The route comprises three very different sections:

Clearwater Bay to Nine Pins Islands (7km)

The waves and wind are coming over your left shoulder and as you exit Clearwater Bay you’re faced with steep wind chop rolling diagonally under your ski.  They’re short runs and difficult to catch – you need to accelerate onto them and then veer left, riding each wave on the diagonal.  A surf rudder to hold your ski from spinning out is essential.

Nine Pins to Cape D’Aguilar (10.5km)

The wind is now coming over your right shoulder, but much more from behind and the waves are almost lined up towards the turning point at Cape D’Aguilar.  The landmark you’re straining to see through the murk is the “Kissing Whales” – two enormous rocks that look like a pair of… right.

For me, this section was pure joy and I overtook a number of paddlers who’d nipped past me on the awkward section to the Nine Pins.  In some ways it was like our local Millers Run, with waves intersecting to create opportunities to link runs by angling from wave to wave.

Cape D’Aguilar to Stanley (5.5km)

The approach to Cape D’Aguilar is hectic – the seas becoming more and more confused the closer you get. 

Having rounding the rocks, you head for about 2km almost due west and here the runs can be clean and spectacular.  And you need to make the most of them before heading northeast across Stanley Bay to the finish at the Hong Kong Sea School.  That last three kilometer stretch is a true test of grit – it’s on the flat, with small side chop and either a side or head-wind…   It’s put your head down and grind…

Can’t wait.

Watch out for daily updates from Wednesday from Hong Kong where it’s my privilege and delight to be taking part in my second Dragon Run!

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