Hill and Nixon Consolidate at the Sunset Series, Perth

Thursday, 21 November 2019 00:41 | Written by 
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Cory "Chill" Hill (aka Mr. Consistent) cruises home to win the first of two Sunset Series Races Cory "Chill" Hill (aka Mr. Consistent) cruises home to win the first of two Sunset Series Races

South Africa’s Hayley Nixon managed to hold off Australian Iron Woman star Jemma Smith in a nail-biting finish at City Beach at the end of the first of two Sunset Series Races, part of the Shaw and Partners WA Race week here in Perth. In the men’s race, Cory Hill consolidated his lead in the week’s rankings, ahead of fellow Australian Tom Norton.

Classic Perth Downwind

After a calm morning, the “Perth Doctor” wind arrived in the afternoon, offering classic downwind conditions – 15-20kt of steady SW breeze, the waves rolling diagonally in towards the shore.

As we drove up to the start at Port Beach, Dean Gardiner turned to Jemma Smith and told her to stay fairly close inshore. “It’s the fastest line,” he said. “You can stay 100-200m off the beach.”

I immediately resolved to do the same thing myself…

IMG 5718

Crowded Start

Eyeing out the turn buoy, which had been set 400m off the beach, many of the paddlers opted to move their skis upwind; the elite paddlers stayed put and took the shortest line out.

There was the usual mad scramble at the start and with nearly 200 surfskis on the water, the turn was crowded, one or two paddlers (Dean Beament, I’m looking at you!) took a swim - although by the time the mid-packers like me got there the swimmers were already remounted and out of sight.

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Inshore Line?

I took what I thought was an inshore line – but looking at the Strava replay afterwards, I wasn’t nearly as close to the beach as some of the other paddlers.

For me the run was demanding, and I took a little while to pick up the rhythm of the waves: aside from the wind chop running diagonally into shore, there were also runs parallel to the beach, and even (rebound?) chop heading diagonally back out to sea.

The perfect sequence (which I managed on a couple of occasions) was to veer right and accelerate onto one of the bigger waves towards the beach, immediately steer left to surge onto the next run up the coast, and then to catch a ride on the smaller waves heading diagonally out; you’d find yourself hurtling along the crest of a wave back out to sea. Exhilarating! And fast… well, it felt fast.

Race Course

My so-called inshore line in black - Oscar Chalupsky's in purple (he was dicing a pack of over-50 elites including Dean Beament, Todd Borland and Dean Gardiner)

Men’s Race

Tom Norton had a clean start at got to the turn buoy just behind Luke Eltham and Cory Hill.

“Cory’s the one to beat at the moment,” he said. “So, I was keeping an eye on him.”

Turning downwind, the two men paddled side by side, surging forward in turn on the runs.

“Tommy and I train together quite a bit,” said Cory Hill. “At times it just felt like one of our 12km training paddles.

“Conditions here are quite similar to back home,” he added. “Except that there’s a bit more swell back home and the wind is generally coming over your right shoulder.”

Three km in, Hill worked his way a little further out to sea, leaving Norton on a line closer to the shore.

“We call it the Tommy Norton line,” laughed Hill. “If ever I found myself on the inside of Tommy, I’d be really worried.

The two men continued, neck and neck, first one surging in front, then the other, but a few km later, Hill put together a sequence that saw him shoot ahead.

“Cory is Mr. Consistent,” said Norton. “He’s so consistently on the pace. Miss a run, and he makes you pay. I had a couple of those, and he broke away and won the race.”

Now at the front of the race, Hill kept checking his GPS. “If I’m doing the same splits as when I overtook everyone, then I’m confident that I’ll stay ahead,” he explained. “But if I let the times slip, then I know there could be 5 paddlers catching me.”

No mistakes, the splits stayed consistent: 3:26, 3:28, 3:28, 3:32 and then it was less than 500m to the finish – where he crossed the line just over 20sec in front of the hard charging Norton.

“Stoked to get the second win in the series,” said Hill.

tom norton 2nd

Tom Norton negotiates the small shore break at City Beach

Norton was pleased to improve on his position in the West Coast Downwinder. “I was happy to get a good race,” He said. “Nice to get some confidence under the belt.”

Jackson Collins came 3rd and South Africans Sean Rice and Nicholas Notten in 4th and 5th respectively.

Women’s Race

“Beach starts are not my favorite,” laughed Hayley Nixon, “especially when I have some the best surf lifesavers in the world lined up next to me.”

But she got away cleanly and turned in 6th place.

Up front, Jordan Mercer and Jemma Smith immediately caught some runs and surged into the lead, on a line close inshore.

Nixon headed on a more conservative line. “I planned to go slightly offshore, hoping it would pay off later in the race,” she explained.

The intensity was high from the start: Jemma Smith, Jordan Mercer and Bonnie Hancock had gone out hard, and Nixon stretched out to catch them up.

“For the first 5 or 6km, Rachel Clarke, Teneale Hatton and I were racing together,” she said. “Jordy was way out front.”

Nixon made her way to a relatively deeper line. “I was feeling good,” she said, “and concentrated on the rhythm of catching runs and cutting left.”

Accelerating, she found herself alongside and then past Mercer who was 100m to her right.

“About 500m from the groyne, I thought I was far enough ahead that I could take a conservative line in,” she said.

But then she saw Jemma Smith on her inside.

Jemma Smith

Jemma Smith took a close second behind Hayley Nixon

“Then it was a case of catching any run I could, and sprinting up the beach,” Nixon said.

It was enough and she beat Smith by 11 sec.

Meanwhile an inadvertent swim had seen Rachel Clarke lose out on a possible third place – and she ended up a disappointing sixth behind Teneale Hatton (3rd), Jordan Mercer (4th) and Bonnie Hancock (5th).

Nixon was delighted with her second win in as many races. “The shorter race format is a different challenge,” she said. “I was stoked to win this one.”

Teneale Hatton

Teneale Hatton (NZ) catches some air on the way into the finish at City Beach

Summary Results - Sunset Surfski Series Race 1

(Click here for the full results)


PosNameTimeTime Behind CatGenderCountryPointsPace
1 Cory HILL 40:26.8   Male AUS 500 3:40 min/km
2 Tom NORTON 40:46.9 00:20.1 Male AUS 490 3:42 min/km
3 Jackson COLLINS 41:12.9 00:46.1 Male AUS 482 3:44 min/km
4 Sean RICE 41:31.1 01:04.3 Male GBR 476 3:46 min/km
5 Nicholas NOTTEN 41:43.7 01:16.9 Male RSA 472 3:47 min/km


Pos Name Time Time Behind Cat Gender Country Points Pace
42 Hayley-Jo NIXON 47:24.7   Female RSA 500 4:18 min/km
45 Jemma SMITH 47:35.5 00:10.8 Female AUS 490 4:19 min/km
49 Teneale HATTON 48:07.4 00:42.7 Female NZL 482 4:22 min/km
53 Jordan MERCER 48:18.1 00:53.4 Female AUS 476 4:23 min/km
54 Bonnie HANCOCK 48:24.5 00:59.8 Female AUS 472 4:24 min/km


Shaw and Partners WA Race Week

The race was the second event in the Shaw and Partners Race Week in Perth, Western Australia.

The week-long festival comprises:

  • Sunday, 17 Nov: Fenn West Coast Downwinder
  • Tuesday, 19 Nov: Ben Hewitt Sunset Surfski Series Race
  • Thursday, 21 Nov: Ben Hewitt Sunset Surfski Series Race
  • Friday, 22 Nov: The Shaw and Partners Dash for Cash
  • Saturday, 23 Nov: The Shaw and Partners “The Doctor”

The $100,000 prize pool comprises:

  • Shaw and Partners Dash for Cash: $15,000
  • Shaw and Partners “The Doctor”: $50,000
  • Shaw and Partners WA Race Week series overall: $35,000

Click here for the latest series points scores




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