2023 Hawkesbury Classic Paddle Report

This team of 4 ladies last paddled the HCC 20 years ago. They beat their time from 20 years ago and set a new C4 record.
111km…….By the light of a full moon!!

– by Kent Heazlett Event Coordinator / Race Control Hawkesbury Classic Paddle

The 2023 Hawkesbury Classic promised you the moon and boy, did we deliver. What a magical, magical night on the Hawkesbury River that night. We hope that all the paddlers, volunteers and land crew have had a chance to recover from a BIG weekend.

This was the 44th Hawkesbury Classic Paddle and this year’s event saw 150 paddlers face the starter’s gun at Macquarie Park, Freemans Reach late on Saturday afternoon. Of the 150 entrants drawn from all over New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, 145 entered the 111km event and 5 entered the Windsor to Wisemans 65km event. 

The fastest craft down the river got to the FINISH in 8 hrs 35 mins elapsed time and the slowest craft finished with a time of 18 hrs 37 mins. Each of the paddlers in this year’s event was required to raise a minimum of $250 and thus far, paddlers have raised more than $55,000. This is on top of nearly $4.4 million that has been raised previously for our principal beneficiary, Arrow Bone Marrow Transplant Foundation.

Naomi Johnson – fastest Woman, 8th outright and 2nd on Handicap.  (Don Johnstone in back of shot)
It was wonderful to have this iconic event back on the river after a three-year hiatus caused by COVID and last year’s disastrous Hawkesbury floods. Even though the event keeps the local Hawkesbury residents off the river for a few hours on Saturday afternoon with the exclusive use of the river between Macquarie Park, Freemans Reach and Sackville, the overwhelming response from the Hawkesbury business people and land-owners is that they are thrilled to see the area returning to normal, post COVID and floods.

With a smaller field than is normally the case, “starts” were compressed into three with the first “start” at 4.00pm and the last at 4.30pm. The event, conducted under Aquatic Licence AQL36499, issued by Transport for New South Wales, was conducted in near perfect weather conditions with warm temperatures in the afternoon and a full moon lighting up the river for most of the night.

Along the 111km route, there were 19 Safety Checkpoints, so on average, there was a Safety Checkpoint every 5.8km along the length of the river.Of the 19 checkpoints, we had 10 land-based checkpoints and 9 checkpoints aboard vessels. These vessels were in the main, crewed by either NSW SES or Marine Rescue NSW (Hawkesbury). In addition to the checkpoints, the SES and Marine Rescue (Hawkesbury) supplied a further 17 vessels to carry out search and rescue and to control the car ferry crossings at Sackville, Lower Portland, Webbs Creek and Wisemans Ferry.

In total, over 280 volunteers worked throughout the weekend ensuring the smooth operation of the event and the safety of paddlers. Supplementing the human involvement in the event, GPS Trackers supplied by TrackMeLive were trialled. These trackers proved to be a resounding success and will be in place for future events. The use of GPS tracking is a real “game-changer” for events such as this. It was reported that family and friends of the paddlers followed the event on their electronic devices in many interstate and overseas locations.

Brendan Trewartha and Peter Manley – fastest outright
Again, thank you to the very kind benefactor, who covered the cost of the trackers for the trial. Only two safety matters were reported over the weekend. The first involved a resident of one of the ski parks in the Wisemans Ferry area hitting golf balls at the SES search and rescue boat. Wisemans Ferry Police were alerted in the belief that they had a boat in the vicinity of the Del Rio Music Festival, but the matter was resolved by the manager of the ski park.

The second matter happened at around 0255 Hrs on Sunday and involved a kayak capsizing when the paddlers ventured too close to the stationary ferry and became entangled in the ferry cables. The ferry was stationary, with its orange flashing light extinguished, on the port (Wisemans Ferry township) side of the river. Fortunately, neither paddler in the double kayak was injured and they were taken onboard an SES rescue vessel and taken back to Checkpoint I at NSW Water Ski Federations Ski Gardens at Wisemans Ferry where they withdrew.

A Safety Checkpoint de-brief was held on Thursday night and all checkpoint leaders in attendance were very happy with the safety network surrounding the event. They especially were impressed by the fact that paddlers were calling out “Thank you” as they passed the checkpoint. Feedback from paddlers and land crew has been overwhelmingly positive and with luck the number of participants will double for next year.

This year’s event was sanctioned by Paddle Australia and received sponsorship from Hawkesbury City Council and a grant from the NSW State Government. We could not have an event of such magnitude without the support of all the volunteers who help out at the START (Windsor Paddlesports Club, Nepean Blue Mountains Prostate Support Group, Ross Winters and his mates from River Canoe Club, Lane Cove River Kayakers, John Duffy and his Registration Tent crew etc. etc.), all the 19 checkpoint crews who give up their entire weekend for us and then the massive support given by NSW SES, Marine Rescue NSW (Hawkesbury) and WICEN NSW (a unit of VRA Rescue NSW). We received sponsorship fromHawkesbury City Council,Bennett Paddles,Vaikobi,The Retreat at Wisemans,Expedition Kayaks,Tony Hystek for the sound system at START and many others.We also received a grant from the NSW State Government

Please spread the word about the fantastic success of this year’s event and let’s double the number of paddlers for next year.
SAVE THE DATE FOR NEXT YEAR’S EVENTThe 2024 event will be held on the weekend of the 26th and 27th October.
– by Kent HeazlettEvent Coordinator / Race ControlHawkesbury Classic Paddle
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