The inaugural Wild Descent kayak race on the Clutha River is heading into day two of the four-day competition after a mass start above the Albert Town bridge yesterday morning. With 261km head of them, twenty seven teams started just after 11am with surprising speed and early pace setters were an Australian and Kiwi duo Matt Blundell and Michael Snell.
Race Director Warren Bates says it was a very quick start.
“ Matt and Michael set off at a tremendous pace and kept it up most of the day. Within the first three hours they managed to put about eight minutes on the clock between them and the rest of the pack.”
The first day saw the field kayak 89 km from Albert Town down the Upper Clutha River to Clyde with some dramas on the way through. Coast-to-Coast record holder Keith Murray teamed with Bob MacLaughlin had a mixed run after they broke their rudder and started taking on water. Mr Bates says the pair had to nurse their kayak down the river for half an hour until they could pick up a new boat and shift all their mandatory gear across.
“ They made a stunning comeback in the latter stages of yesterday and clawed their way back through the field to finish in fifth place last night so they will be hoping for a kinder day today.”
The rest of the teams watched in awe as some intense racing took place at the front of the field with Coast-to-Coast legend Steve Gurney putting on some pace with team mate Tanya Bryson.
“ Tanya was looking reasonably shell shocked by the end of the day and she commented that they couldn’t button off at any stage because you would go backwards in the field so it’s certainly game on up the front,” says Mr Bates.
The Wild Descent continues today with teams heading into Stage 2 and a relatively short 54km paddle from Clyde to Roxburgh. The leaders are expected to take around 4 to 5 hours with a portage at the Roxburgh Dam.
“ The early morning weather today looks like a southern change so this could hamper progress. The teams are underway now and Blundell and Snell still hold the lead by around 8 minutes over Ian Huntsman and Wendy Riach”, says Mr Bates, “ There is around 10 minutes separating the top ten teams.”