Race Report: Vaikobi King and Queen of the Harbour (NZ)

Thursday, 26 April 2018 18:10 | Written by 
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Andy Mowlem: 2018 Vaikobi King of the Harbour! Andy Mowlem: 2018 Vaikobi King of the Harbour!

I had two or three extended, paddles-down, ‘whooosah!’ moments”, said race director Garth Spencer, “and I pulled a few cheeky chakas for the camera crew on the media boat…

“…but those failed to show up in the photos, so there’s no proof, haha!”

Challenging Conditions

Given the forecast westerly wind, Spencer had selected the popular “Hobsonville Humdinger” downwind route for the race: 22km from Hobsonville Point, down Waitemata harbour, around Stanley Point and up to the finish at Takapuna Beach.

route map

The Hobsonville Humdinger!

As the wind filled in on race morning, it was accompanied by squalls of rain and a “king tide”, which would drive strong currents down the harbour (and eddies back along the shore).


Given the relatively short course, it was no surprise that the paddlers sprinted flat-out from the start, a lead group of seven quickly dropping the rest of the field.


“We had a mass start, so we got to start with the men, which was quite fun,” said Rachel Clarke. “It was pretty technical for the first 15km."

After the first four (side-wind) km, the field turned down the harbour with the wind directly behind them.

“The water was rushing out with the wind from a super-high 3.4m tide,” said Garth Spencer. “It made for fast racing, but it had the effect that you didn’t feel like you were surfing.

“Down the harbour I got my flow going, max speed 19.9kph, some 3:37 splits, averaging 16 and 17kph…” he added.

By now Andy Mowlem had pulled a good 5 boat lengths ahead of Jordan Mclarin. Spencer was lying third, some way back.

“I was red-lining it to stay in touch,” Spencer said.

Garth Spencer

Garth Spencer - still pulling the cheeky chakas! 


It was critical to stay out in the current; the outgoing flow was swirling back upstream at the edges of the harbour, the clear blue water roiling and mixing with the churned up water flowing out to sea. Woe betide any paddler who strayed into the eddies.

As the field turned left around North Head, they were faced with a fierce headwind and the decision: go offshore and hope for favourable currents or stay inshore and shelter from the wind?

With Mowlem so far ahead, the race was for second place. Spencer headed left and steadily made ground on Mclarin, passing him with 2km to go.  "I could see Jordan starting to come back at me as I grunted it out in the squalls," said Spencer.  But it wasn't enough, and Mclarin finished in third place after a tough battle.

Meanwhile Rachel Clarke, was far ahead of the other women in the race. “The runs down the harbour were good,” she said, “but you had to work hard to make anything of them.”


Rachel Clarke dominated the women's race, finishing 14th overall

In spite of that, she saved enough energy for the upwind leg that she reached the finish at Takapuna Beach over six minutes ahead of clubmate Dene Simpson.

Clarke heads back to Hawaii to defend her Molokai Challenge title and will be competing in the North American tour later in the year, racing in the Canadian Surfski Champs and at the Gorge Downwind Champs.

Great Day Out

“It was great day out,” said Spencer afterwards. “It’s a classic course that we do whenever there’s a westerly blowing. A big shout out to all the competitors and sponsors, it wouldn’t happen without them.”


Summary Results

Click here for the full results


  1. Andy Mowlem (NZ) 1:28:26
  2. Garth Spencer (NZ) 1:30:33
  3. Jordan McLarin (NZ) 1:31:26

Mens Top 3 Ski

Men's Podium


  1. Rachel Clarke (NZ) 1:36:07
  2. Dene Simpson (NZ) 1:42:30
  3. Danika Mowlem (NZ) 1:50:37

Womens Top 3 Ski

Women's Podium


  1. Oskar Stielau/Robbie Ford (NZ) 1:31:36
  2. Gavin Clark/Glenn Gray (NZ) 1:33:55
  3. Anton Reiman/Len D Beer (NZ) 1:35:28

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