"Caine's Brother" - Deano's take on the Dragon Run

Thursday, 26 November 2009 01:03 | Written by  Dean Gardiner
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While the comments flow thick and fast on could of, would have and should have and what race is best and toughest and what dictates a good or bad race, I thought would give you a bit of a rundown on how the recent Dragon Run unfolded.

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Great Conditions

I must tell you I was pretty excited when I saw the windguru report leading into the event. It had 20 knots of straight north which is probably not the most ideal direction but still very good. What it meant to the racers is that the first part of the race would be downwind leading into nine pins then coming across the right shoulder for the major part of the race to Shek O then a fairly long stretch of no wind slash slight head to finish.

With this sort of race which travels in three directions it's hard to get the wind the whole way but for most getting downwind early in the race makes for a more fun race and you can worry about the flat later.

Favorites

Leading into the event the talk was about the known guys in the sport.  Dawid, Hank, Tim, Jezz and Lightee were the ones getting most of the attention. But to most of the Aussie contingent Shannon Eckstein was going to be up there with the best of them.

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The recent Fenn Cup races in Australia have seen Shannon, Jez and Tim pretty much having their own race while the rest of the field battled for fourth. In most Aussies minds the winner of the Dragon Run was going to come from one of these three.

To many on this site Caine Eckstein's name has been prominent in race results especially towards the back end of 2008. Placing in NZ, Dubai and a win in the Southern Shamaal really showed just how talented this guy is.

"Caine's Brother"

Prior to Hong Kong "Caines brother" as Shannon was dubbed was an unknown to most except for any person living in Australia. The older Eckstein's reputation here as an accomplished ocean athlete is well documented. Two world ironman titles 3 national titles and host of other world and national titles. To top all this off he is the current professional ironman champ which unfortunately for the ocean paddling community will mean he will soon start that part of his sporting life again depriving us of a great athlete at upcoming ocean racing events.   [Editor: I spoke to Shannon a few minutes ago to confirm that unfortunately he won't be coming to Dubai.  He's in the middle of training for the upcoming Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Series in Australia.]

The Race

The Dragon Run starts in a beautiful bay (Clearwater Bay) on the Eastern side of Kowloon which is attached to the Chinese mainland. It's hard to believe that just over the hill from the start is a seething mass of humanity so dense that crossing the street can mean taking your life in your own hands.

Generally the run out to the first turn is into a side headwind being that the wind was north it was pretty much a straight downwind.  Because of this the field spread quickly both vertically and horizontally. Eckstein and Mocke were the early leaders with Pretorius (lightee) and Cotter hot on their heels.

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The turn at Nine Pins is 6.5 kilometres into the race. This distance was eaten up quickly by the field with the steep long runs being whipped up by the strong winds. Once around competitors were now confronted by a strong side wind. The options here were head to the right to get high early, go straight line or start surfing your way to the left and hope that through some miracle you get brought back on the line.

Shek o and the kissing whales (a statue of kissing whales sits on the Shek o headland) is another 10.5 kilometres in a south west direction. With wind over the right shoulder competitors started working the runs. Some headed a little far to the right and some to the left. The ones that made the most of it all went straight.

Duel

Eckstein and Mocke duelled for the lead through this section with Pretorius and Cotter were still right there. Passing the kissing whales Eckstein moved away from the South Africans and Cotter made his move past the fading pair. Into the flat and Eckstein held off the fast finishing Cotter by 10-15 seconds.

Perhaps the biggest mover through the last 3 kilometres was Tim Jacobs. Rounding the whales with me and Daryl Bartho, Jacobs managed to mow down both Mocke then Pretorius to take the last place on the podium. Bartho was sixth making a solid comeback to ocean paddling events.

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Western Australian Ruth Highman caused an upset in the ladies event by taking second from Katie Pocock and finishing behind seasoned competitor Michelle Eray.

Great Event

This is a great event. In fact it's one of the best on the circuit. It's definitely a must do if you want to tackle more of these types of races. The organization is spot on and while it has all the facets to be a logistical nightmare the whole event runs seamlessly. One minute you are landing in Hong Kong next you are starting in a race and lastly you are sitting in the world's busiest city with a beer in your hand. You look to the bloke next to you and say    How the F$%^ did that happen?

From the international contingent a huge thanks to all involved.  James, Andy, Bill, Hollywood Mal and everyone else, awesome event.

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Just to start the banter for the Dubai Shamaal, Tim and Murray Stewart in no particular order daylight third.


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Surfski.info Interviews...

Shannon Eckstein

[Editor: I managed to get hold of Shannon a few minutes ago and this is what he had to say:

He was hoping to get to Dubai, but it would have meant missing another five days of training.  He's a professional athlete, sponsored by Kellogg's and clearly has responsibilities to meet!

He's hoping to do more long distance races in the future - including the final Fenn Cup race in January next year.  With some more planning, he'll be able to attend some more international races in the New Year - like San Francisco and Spain.

"I have a lot of respect for the guys who have been doing this [LD racing]," he said. "So I wouldn't want to say there are other Ironman competitors who'd necessarily come in and win.  But I think there are a couple who could have a crack at the top five in a race like Hong Kong.

"There's definitely some interest.  It's great to travel to places where we don't normally race - and the prize money is good," he added.

"Some of the ironwomen too could have a go - it would be good to see more women!"

Murray Stewart

Muzz gets to Dubai on Monday morning.  One of his goals is to make the Australian sprint kayak team for the London Olympics in 2012.  He usually trains with Tim Jacobs in Manly, Sydney.

"Am I peaking for Dubai?" he laughed.  "My main focus is still sprint, but you could definitely say that if I don't go well in the Shamaal, it won't be from a lack of training!"

While kayaking takes up about half his training time at the moment, he said that surfski paddling provides a great way to train long distance during what is now the kayaking off-season.  He'll continue to race in surfski as long as possible at least until the Olympics year, "if I make the team."

As for Dubai, "Timmy has been going really well in training, so if he's on form next Wednesday he's going to be difficult to beat," said Stewart.  "But then, you could say that for about ten of the other guys.  Dubai is a difficult race because of the conditions.  You can train all you like in Australia or South Africa and when you get there the conditions could be completely different."

And as for Shannon Eckstein's win in Hong Kong:

"We weren't surprised.  Although he's not been in the long distance races much, he's been around forever.  In the most recent race, where he came third, Shannon was leading the whole race and took a wrong turn at the end to let Jeremy Cotter and Tim Jacobs through."]

 


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