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Chris Scott and Jaron Mumby- Fitzroy CREDIT: Surf Life Saving New Zealand
Kawakawa Home Invader CREDIT: New Zealand Police
A record field of IRB crews will line up in this weekend's BP Surf Rescue Championships at Oakura Beach in Taranaki.
The annual national championships for surf lifesaving's fastest craft has attracted 109 crews from 29 clubs around the country, makin it the biggest IRB event ever staged.
Local club East End heads the entries with nine crews, including premier contenders Andrew Cronin and James Morwood.
Their fiercest challenge will come from defending premier champions Andrew Lancaster and Ash Matuschka (Muriwai), along with perrenial favourites and former New Zealand representatives Jaron Mumby and Chris Scott from the nearby Fitzroy club, who have dominated the event since 2003.
Mumby and Scott will be looking for redemption after narrowly missing the overall title last year, inexplicably failing to make the final of the tube rescue race on the first day and having to play catch-up from the start.
Last year's premier competition was so close that four different crews won gold in each of the four disciplines, while Mumby and Scott dominated December's North Island championships in Waipu Cove, winning three of the four finals, with Lancaster and Matuschka grabbing the tube rescue title.
Paekakariki's Brent Harvey and Richard Whinham and the Wainui pair of Justin Martin and Nathan Teutenberg will also provide stiff competition this weekend.
The women's ranks have been bolstered by another Fitzroy combination, Emma Crofsky and Katie Watts, who are back after missing the North Island championships.
Crofsky and Watts won the assembly rescue and tube rescue at last year's nationals, while St Clair sisters Carla and Stephanie Laughton cleaned up in the mass rescue and single rescue last year and also dominated the North Island titles.
Their closest rivals will be another Muriwai crew, Jess Limbrick and Melody Edwards, while East End's Laura Begg and Kirsty May will also be strong.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the IRB in New Zealand, with the first formal IRB trials taking place in 1978.
It’s also the 40th year of BP’s partnership with Surf Life Saving New Zealand, sponsoring the fleet of IRBs around the country.