Rachel Clark and Nick Notten claim their crowns

Rachel Clarke won her 8th title in champagne paddling conditions at the 2019 Vaikobi Auckland King and Queen of the Harbour and a new winner was crowned in the men’s field with South African Nick Notten taking the victory over 2-time defending champion Andrew Mowlem.

Saturday’s event, which was hosted by Takapuna Boating Club and doubled as the ICF Oceania Championships, saw over 130 paddlers take to the water and enjoy the best of what Auckland Harbour has to offer. With 10-12 knots north-easterly forecast, the long course started up at Shakespear Regional Park at the tip of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula and saw paddlers head out east for 3km before turning right and getting a great run down to Takapuna Beach. Wind against tide helped to lift up the waves and give paddlers some runners to play with while still being very manageable conditions for the whole field.

The women’s race was the one to watch with world number three Teneale Hatton going up against Rachel Clarke, who has made this race her own with an incredible run of 7 victories. Both girls were hungry for the win but based on recent racing results, the odds were tipped slightly in favour of Teneale. This is how it looked to be going from the start as Teneale had built a strong lead around the turning mark. On the downwind run they split, with Teneale taking an outside line and Rachel taking a more easterly line. This paid off for Rachel who managed to pull back Teneale’s advantage and then some to come into Takapuna Beach just under a minute ahead. Young gun American Ana Swetish was in third place. Ana, 17, is the junior world champion and her performance today will certainly have those top girls looking over their shoulders as the next generation come though.

Nick Notten, who was 5th at the 2019 ICF Ocean Racing World Championships in September, was dubbed the man to beat in the men’s division and so it proved. He took the lead and pushed hard going into the turn. No one was able to stay with him and from there Nick was unchallenged. There was some concern the South African went too far west on the run down to Takapuna and local Andrew Mowlem would be able to pull him back in the final stages however this was not to be.  Nick arrived at Takapuna first, completing the 22km course in 1hour 28mins 26secs.
New Zealand’s top ocean paddler Andrew Mowlem came in 1minute 24 seconds behind to finish 2nd overall and claim the ICF Oceania Championship title.
There was a sprint finish for third place, with Sam Newlands just pipping Tom Ashley to round out the podium.

Toby Brooke finished 5th overall and won the U23 division, and Ben Regan was the first U19.

There was a strong doubleski field this year which was taken out by Tim Jacobs (AUS) and Katie Pocock (NZL). Katie is a legend of this race with her name engraved on the Queen of the Harbour trophy a phenomenal 10 times! Defending champions Oskar Stielau and Robbie Ford were second and James and Matt Flannery from Wellington were third.

Tupu King took out the men’s Waka ama OC1 division with a dominant performance. He was followed by Paul Roozendaal and Narada Bury. Jessica McDuff was the winner of the female Waka Ama OC1 paddlers. Richard and Ngaire Pehi won the OC2.

There were also a couple of hardy SUP paddlers, Chris Smith and Angela McKee, who did an awesome job completing the 22km course.

Ben Walkley was the winner of the 6km short course. This course is a great alternative for paddlers who may not feel confident competing in the long course option. It was an out and back loop from Takapuna Beach. Star of the show in this course was Sean Ioaba (9), who was racing in his first race with his dad JB in the OC2.

A great new initiative this edition was the addition of a kid’s event “Kids of the Harbour”. With CRNZ provided boats and instructors, kids were able to try out paddling just off the beach. There were smiles all round and only a small amount of chaos as kids figured out how the steering works. This will be back next year, bigger and better, as CRNZ are working hard to develop and implement a pathway for kids to get into paddling.

In a first for ocean paddling in New Zealand, this event was filmed and the final stages of the race was livestreamed on the Sky Sport Next Youtube channel.  This can be viewed here (skip forward to 48minutes to see the first paddlers approach the finish). https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=GWFakdjPGxI&fbclid=IwAR0MTRskrGePh2SHGUVGZOKHslcaJB2SNz-CEi_277aPR_th3scrz3MJAhY&app=desktop

It was a spectacular day rounded out by good food and some cold beverages in the sun with mates at Takapuna Boating Club. A huge thanks to all the volunteers and sponsors for making this event possible and to all the paddlers who came along and supported the race. See you there next year!

Full results: https://www.webscorer.com/race?raceid=204359

Photos of the event can be found https://www.facebook.com/Kingandqueenoftheharbour/