Kenny Rice Wins the Doctor – the Miller’s Run Factor at Work?

Saturday, 26 November 2022 17:16 | Written by  Rob Mousley and Ingrid Roepers
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The Shaw and Partners "The Doctor" Champion Kenny Rice The Shaw and Partners "The Doctor" Champion Kenny Rice

The South Africans cleaned up today at the most prestigious surfski race in Australia – arguably the most prestigious race in the world - taking five out of the top six places and the entire podium at the Shaw and Partners “The Doctor” in Perth. Defending women’s champion, Kiwi Danielle McKenzie won the women’s trophy.

Conditions

Conditions could hardly have been better: the beloved Perth Doctor came to the party with a 20kt and strengthening blow, whipping up superb downwind conditions for the field – perhaps the strongest field ever, with the depth of talent on display. The five South African visitors were joined by a stunning array of Australia’s best – as well as stand-out Europeans like “Flash” Gordan Harbrecht.

In the events leading up to the big one, it was Australia all the way with the best results from the Saffa squad being Hank McGregor’s fourth in the West Coast Downwinder last weekend and Mark Keeling’s fourth in the Sunset Series race on Thursday and his third in the Dash for Cash yesterday.

But it all came right today.

“There wasn’t a lot of paddles down for the first 10 k.  It was hectic, but I felt really comfortable. After such a terrible week of results I’m pretty stoked,” said Rice.

course

Here at home in South Africa, family and friends of the SA team had been concerned; a concern shared by the boys down under…

“This morning we were trying to nut out how to beat the Aussies.  Cory and Tom had been so dominant all week.  But to come through for a clean sweep was awesome and puts a happy spin to the week for us

“I got some great runners coming in and they carried me through to the beach and there we go Saffas one, two, three,” said Rice.

Men's Podium

"Saffas 1, 2, 3": L-R Current ICF Junior Champion Uli Hart, Current ICF World Champion Kenny Rice, Mark Keeling

Dani Dominates

In the women’s Doctor, defending champion Danielle McKenzie dominated. Arch-rival and current world women’s champion Jemma Smith started strong, winning the Hot Spot 1km from the start at Rottnest Island, but it was McKenzie who broke away, delighting in the wave action whipped up by the 20kt winds.

“So much fun out there today crossing the channel.  Just surfing the waves, hooting along.   Just loved it.  Didn’t see too many people around me, so I just powered on and came home and won the one that counts,” said McKenzie.

Her result makes it two victories in two appearances after winning the race in 2019 – the last time the Doctor was run, pre-covid.

Clearly swapping to a new boat manufacturer – she switched to Epic Kayaks just two weeks ago – didn’t prove a handicap.

The stand-out result in the women’s race must be the performance of US paddler Ana Swetish, taking third in her first Doctor and beating South African ace Michelle Burn.

Women's Podium

Ana Swetish (USA), Danielle McKenzie (NZ), Jemma Smith (Aus)

Overall WA Race Week Champions

First Australian home in men’s racing was Australian endurance paddler Cory Hill from the Gold Coast, who crossed fourth – and with his solid results from earlier in the week (1, 3, 2, 15) his placing was enough to see him crowned the ultimate champion for WA Race Week and win $15 000 in prize money.

The other stand-out paddler of the week, Tom Norton from the Gold Coast, came home 8th in the Doctor and took 2nd overall in the WA Race Week tally after his two wins, 2nd and a 10th earlier in Race Week.

Rice and McKenzie picked up $8000 each for their DOCTOR wins, and McKenzie added $15 000 to her prize haul for winning WA Race Week bringing her week winnings to well over $23 000.   Rice finished third in the WA Race Week standings.

Rice’s effort today missed out on smashing Hill’s race record.  It still stands (a 1h33.20 s time set in 2017), and McKenzie still holds Doctor record (1h47.16s) which she set in 2019.

And… that Miller’s Run Factor

Not only did Saffas take 5 of the first 6 places, but the podium was occupied entirely by paddlers from a club at the small seaside village of Fish Hoek, south of Cape Town, South Africa.

How is that possible? Fish Hoek not only dominated the 2022 Doctor, but has produced three overall world champions (Sean Rice twice world champ, Kenny Rice and Nick Notten) and the three-time Junior World Champion Uli Hart

One answer is surely an 11.7km stretch of water known as the Miller’s Run – possibly the most (in)famous downwind route in the world.

Cape paddlers count themselves deeply fortunate: the Miller’s Run works virtually every day in the summer season when the SE – the Cape Doctor – blows at anything from 20-40kt. In winter, the wind doesn’t blow quite so often, but when the cold fronts rage in from the South Atlantic, they produce NW winds. So, we simply go the other way.

I belong to a whatsapp group – the Miller’s Maniacs – which has some 36 members. Between us, we’ve done almost 2,000 Miller’s Run this year alone.

But it’s not just the frequency with which we can do the run, it’s the challenging conditions that the Miller’s Run throws at us. It’s never the same, and it can get properly gnarly. If you can cope with a Miller’s Run on a big day, you can cope with virtually any downwind conditions, anywhere.

All hail our Miller’s Run Warriors!

Results

(Full results: https://bluechipresults.com.au/results.aspx?CId=11&RId=1567&EId=5&dt=0&adv=1 )

Men:

  1. Kenny Rice. (SA).  1:35:26
  2. Mark Keeling (SA).  1:35:33
  3. Uli Hart (SA).   1:35:35
  4. Cory Hill. (Aus).  1:36:30
  5. Josh Fenn (SA) 1:37:16

Women

  1. Danielle McKenzie (NZ). 1:48:36
  2. Jemma Smith (Aus).  1:50:36
  3. Ana Swetish (USA). 1:50:42
  4. Michelle Burn. (RSA) 1:52:21
  5. Hannah Sculley (Aus). 1:54:15s

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