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FNB Durban Downwind – 5th

Written by Barry Lewin on . Posted in Racing

I am super stoked that I finally have the opportunity to participate as a paddler in the FNB Durban Downwind. As the race organizer I have been unable to take part the last few years.

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When I conceptualized the FN Durban Downwind, I wanted to create an event that would feed two of my great passions:

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My passion for Downwind

I really love the element of flexibility that we have incorporated into the ethos of the event. The FNB Durban Downwind has a two-day window period to ensure that the paddlers are afforded the opportunity to compete in the best possible conditions. This is one of the only events, which form part of the World Series, where we have the opportunity to exercise this element of freedom to ensure that, of the two-day period, the paddlers compete on the best possible day.

The ‘down-winders’ of Durban come out in their numbers to take part in the FNB Durban Downwind to embrace the spectacular conditions that the KZN coast has to offer

We all love downwind paddling and this event strives to deliver exactly that, “awesome downwind”.

My passion for Durban

I am a born and bred “Durbanite”.

Durban has year-round warm water currents and is renowned for its wild oceans, making it possibly one of the most exciting and challenging places in the world to paddle. With its diverse sphere of sporting activities, Durban can safely be regarded as the place where “watermen” are born.

I wanted to bring international level racing to my hometown and last year, in 2015, the event found itself on the map of the Surfski World Series.

Having the opportunity to take part in the event, as a paddler, with all the other paddlers who share in this passion for downwind paddling is truly something special.
The Race

Our Durban paddlers as expected, dominated the line up for the 2016 race. We did however have a spiced-up mix of paddlers from Gauteng, who competed in the event and used the floor-space as the Gauteng Canoe Union (GCU) doubles champs, as well as some paddlers from the Eastern Cape, and some even further, all the way from Australia. A superb mix of paddlers to provide for some competitive racing.

The wind forecast for the weekend wasn’t great, but we tried our best to get the paddlers into some bumps. This meant a late Sunday afternoon start to make the most of what was on offer, about 10 knots of NE wind. The back line start kicked off without any issues and the field spread straight away.

I chose to pick my own course on a wider line than the other top paddlers and soon I was all on my own. It felt very lonely not having another boat in sight. This suited my fine though as I was banking on two things 1. I race better chasing the ocean rather than other paddlers, 2. I knew the coastline well and that I was straight on course for the finish.

The runs were very small but there was still a push. I never once put my paddle down, but was always chasing something. This kept my mind active and so much focus was needed to keep the boat on a bump.

I never saw another boat until 3km to go to the finish. Km after km I focused on one bump at a time, making sure I was using the sea to the best of its potential.

Hank McGregor had got away early in the race and stormed to his first win in the event, one he has wanted since his close miss in 2014. Hank was followed by Matthew Bouman, with Mark Anderson the last position on the podium.

My outside line meant I spent a little too much time out in the current, which allowed Mark Anderson and Gene Prato get through on my inside. Gene’s 4th place is testimony to his hard work and fitness. I managed to sneak past Luke Nesbit in the last km for a solid 5th place.

The top 10 was filled with class paddlers and a number of stand-outs performaces.

6th Luke Nesbit
7th Bailey De Fondaumiere – this is one hell of a paddle for this talented junior in a class Durban field. This kid is working so hard and has come so far since I travelled with him to worlds last year.
8th Jason Ekstrand
9th Steve Woods
10th Wade Krieger

In the ladies there was a titanic battle going on between Nicole Russell and Hayley Nixon, with the lead going back and forth between them during the race. Nicole proved to strong on a shallower line to take the win by just 30sec. Ladies paddling in Durban is certainly world class and it is exciting to see the sport producing such amazing local athletes.

I wouldn’t be able to organize such a cool event without the help of a great team. Thanks to all, you know who you are. You all allowed me the freedom to take part as a paddler, as well as put the event on.

A special mention to my super second, my amazing fiancé Carly. Carly really got behind me for this event, diving in to help wherever she could, to make the event and my race a success. I love you miss Carly and I am lucky to have you as the backbone of my support system.

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A big thanks to my good mate Wade Krieger, who has been lending me his spare ski. I don’t have a boat right now and it has been great to have a decent boat under me the last couple of weeks, thanks Wade.

Next up is the Mauritius Ocean Classic, another of my favorite events for the year, not to be missed. I am lucky enough to be taking Carly with me to share in this year’s experience. Off to the Islands we go.

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