For the first time since 2019, the Australian Canoe Marathon National Championships from April 22nd to 24th saw paddlers from around the country come together to contest coveted national titles. Held at Coomera Lakes in Queensland, the national event welcomed paddlers from under-10 to over-75 across three days of exciting racing, with performance across many of the classes necessary for selection to the 2022 Australian Canoe Marathon National Team.
Whether it was Coomera Lakes’ location just over the Queensland border, the desire to be selected for the team headed to Portugal for Worlds later this year, or the allure of a paddle-cation to extend long weekends even further, NSW/ACT fielded a diverse team of paddlers from across the combined states. NSW singlets were visible in all nine competitive sessions across the weekend, with vocal support from the sidelines and a strong sense of pride in representing our state.
Friday: Fast and Furious
The 2022 event program was expanded to include the relatively new Short Course Marathon, which made its debut at the 2019 Canoe Marathon World Championships. The 3.4km race is fast and furious, with two exciting portages and short 1km laps ensuring that spectators have a view of all the action. While this event is only contested in the Open age category at world championship level, separate races were offered for U/18s, U/23s and Masters paddlers to ensure that everyone could get in on the fun.
NSW’s Matthew Gates (U/23 Men’s), Laura Lee (Masters Women’s) and Brett Greenwood (Masters Men’s) secured gold medals, Casey Haynes (Open Men’s) and Daniela Angela Torre (Masters Women’s) silver, and Lachlan Stokes (U/18 Men’s) bronze. The Men’s Open and Masters fields particularly impressive in size with 15 competitors apiece and results coming down to mere seconds.
Day 1 medal winners included Lachlan Stokes (Men’s U/18), Laura Lee and Daniela Torre (Master’s Women’s) in the fast and furious short course event. Images: Paddle Queensland
Saturday: Wind and Water
Saturday dawned windy and wet, with junior doubles and senior/masters singles on the program across three sessions of racing. NSW was dominant in the masters women’s races across the whole day, with Laura Lee (40-45), Daniela Angela Torre (50-55), Fiona Rae (55-60), Pauline Findlay (60-65) and Ann Lloyd-Green (70-75) taking out gold in their respective K1 selection classes, and Karen Tipping winning the Women’s 50-55 Ski race in her debut national championships. While the state had no U/16 juniors in the morning session, we put on a great show in the senior masters, with Stephen Wade (75-80 K1), Geoffrey Horsnell (70-75 K1 selection) and Jeff Hosnell (70-75 non-selection) taking out their respective classes.
Competition was particularly fierce in the Open, U/23 and U/18 selection classes, with paddlers vying for just two places per class on the national team. A total of 17 competitors in the gruelling 29.6km Open Men’s K1 saw seven paddlers from NSW on the start line, with Casey Haynes backing up his Friday performance with a second silver, and Bruno Colos securing the bronze. Lachlan Stokes also backed up after his Friday performance to secure an impressive silver in the U/18s.
Day 2 saw exciting racing across three sessions. From top left, Casey Haynes, Bruno Colos (blue shorts) in the Men’s Open; Brett Greenwood and Jason Ware in the Men’s 50-55; Emily O’Rourke in the Women’s U/23. Images: Paddle Queensland.
Sunday: Chop is better with Two
Following the choppy conditions of Saturday, Sunday promised to keep paddlers on their toes with more wind and rain on the horizon. The course proved a beautiful canvas from which to observe the weather rolling in, with long-range views of grey clouds, patches of sun and more than the odd rainbow! Thankfully, it was doubles day for all the NSW competitors, and more often than not it’s just that bit easier to laugh at incessant wind with intermittent chance of a sunburn when you’ve got a mate in the boat!
The morning session again saw the least of the wind. NSW paddlers secured almost a complete flush of medals in the Men’s 65-70 K2, with Gary Mears/Steven Brinkley taking out gold just seconds ahead of Bernie Craggs/Warwick Nichols and NSW’s Jeff Hosnell teaming up with Hal Curwen-Walker from VIC to claim bronze. The team of Pauline Findlay/Fiona Rae were the only masters women’s crew competing in a selection class, and powered to a strong performance in the 55-60 K2 despite losing their rudder on the second portage!
The wind renewed its gusting in earnest just as Session 2 started, with competition in Open and U/18 K2 classes across distances from 18.5kms to 29.6kms. Paddlers in selection classes complete a portage on all but the first lap on a 3.7km course, and competitors in the Open Men’s and Women’s classes hopped out of their boats and back in at least 12 times apiece over the three days of racing. Again, NSW put on a particularly strong show in the Session 2 men’s classes, with Casey Haynes/James Pralija winning bronze in the Open Men’s K2 and Lachlan Stokes teaming up with Queenslander Joshua Parkinson to win bronze in the U/18 Men’s K2.
While the sky was still dark and foreboding, the wind stayed just calm enough for the final session of the weekend to be run on the standard 3.7km course. NSW fielded more than half the mixed doubles crews on the water, with Darren Lee/Daniela Angela Torre claiming a commanding win in the mixed 35-59 K2 selection class, and the teams of Allison Bilbow/David Young and Karen Tipping/Peter Conway taking out the mixed 35-59 double ski and K2 non-selection respectively. Brett Greenwood and Jason Ware teamed up for a stunning win in the men’s 50-55 K2 selection which saw them beat four boats in a younger age category over the same distance, while the crew of Michael McKeogh/Gareth Stokes were also on the pace to take gold in the men’s 45-50 double ski.
Two in a boat is double the fun, as demonstrated by David Young/Allison Bilbow in the Mixed 35-59 ski, Kieran Babbich/Craig Hutchinson in the Open Men’s K2 and Laura Lee/Naomi Johnson in the Open Women’s K2. Images: Paddle Queensland
Bright in Blue
It was hard to miss the blue singlets of NSW at this year’s event, and the team’s enthusiasm and consistent performances were rewarded with the state winning the Frank Whitebrook Trophy. Awarded since 1984, the trophy is given to the state that amasses the most points across every race in the competition, and it came down to the very last race of the day for NSW to take out the title on 308 points just ahead of Victoria on 302.
A particular thank you to NSW State Team Manager Kieran Babbich for his enthusiastic and inclusive leadership while also racing more than 60kms across the three days, to those who put their hand up to volunteer and official, and to Paddle Queensland for hosting the event!
Check out all the results HERE.
Event pictures and highlight videos can be found on Paddle Queensland’s Facebook Page and soon on the Paddle NSW Flickr Page. If you’d like to contribute pics to the NSW Flickr page, please get in touch with email@example.com.