Unbelievable conditions welcomed the paddlers to the start of the 2017 King of the Bay Race Event at Bluff Yacht Club on Sunday 21st May.
The slight chill in the air was just a tease for what was lined up for the day! The terrible conditions which had prevailed throughout the last week had finally subsided and what a perfect day for racing it was; the sun packed a punch and the wind was literally breathless.
Race registration went smoothly, and, as with racing, the last-minute preparations were underway! Juice bags, board sponsor stickers, sunblock, hacksaws and paddle shafts…. it was all out there.
Silence lurked amongst the favourites as race strategies and tactics were almost tangible. Blank stares into the distance were interrupted by the fast approaching race start and final equipment checks.
As the Surf ski paddlers started their race and headed out into the distant glassy waters, the SUP race briefing was underway. Jackie De Billot, SUPSA official, explained the course and safety regulations for the race. The excitement was brewing as paddlers, some new to the event, were about to paddle through the Southern Hemispheres busiest commercial harbour. A big thanks to the Durban Port Officials for granting permission for this great race to take place.
Paddlers took to the water for their warm ups, the heat of the day now settling in and STILL no breeze to speak of.
The siren cried and racers were under starters orders, the Men starting first and the Ladies 1 minute after.
The men’s race was underway, with Kimon dos Santos and Matt Swemmer making an early break up the channel before the right turn up the silt canal. Drafting was key in this flat water race with the odd welcomed ‘bump’ to boost a surge. Low tide at sunrise meant paddlers were against the pushing tide, and the sand banks were definitely something to look out for! Close behind the front two were Shayne Chipps, Brandon Read and Thulani Nzama working together to chase down Dos Santos and Swemmer. Nearing Wilsons Wharf, Swemmer lost his footing and fell, giving Dos Santos a small lead. With Swemmer now down, the surge came from Chipps to make up the gap as he broke away from Read and Nzama. The only thing left between Dos Santos and the KOTB Victory was the channel exit and the last haul to the beach. The pushing tide through the channel reclaimed the last of the energy from the tanks. Turning the corner and seeing ‘home’ was a welcomed sight and the race was on! Dos Santos managed to kick onto the front bump and landed on the beach ahead of Swemmer and Chipps with Nzama and Read (1st Legend) fighting it out for 4th and 5th place respectively.
Dos Santos, claiming his first KOTB Victory on his debut, had this to say after the race, “Definitely one of the best races on the calendar and it was amazing to be able to paddle through the Harbour. It was my first KOTB and wouldn’t say it was an easy one, the hot conditions and not having any wind made it a gruelling 10km race!” – Well Done Kimon!!!
On the woman’s front, the early breakaway came from Jackie De Billot with Danica Bartho and Charlotte Atherton hot on her heels. Approaching the half way point the underlying sand banks pushed De Billot out on the wider line whilst Atherton and Bartho went for the harder slog over slightly shallower waters. Atherton broke away from Bartho and made good time over De Billot catching before the channel exit. It was, “Hammer down and together they pushed on” said De Billot as she jumped onto Atherton’s tail wake with Bartho close behind. The front two worked together out the channel and left it to a sprint to the end as they approached the final bouy before turning to the beach. De Billot dug deep finding herself with a slight lead after the bouy and the battle for the Ladies KOTB Crown ended with De Billot taking 1st, Atherton in 2nd and Bartho in 3rd. 4th place went Jeanne Grace (1st Diva) with Lande Williamson coming in at 5th. 1st Junior home, Jess Rankin, taking 6th place overall – a great effort coming up trumps on her first race event! Karissa Grace was up next in the Juniors category.
De Billot, securing her 3rd consecutive KOTB Win, said, “I’m chuffed to have secured the Hat-Trick, it’s one of my favourite races and always a privelidge to paddle through the Durban Harbour. Well done to all the paddlers!”
Stepping away from the ‘racers’ it was great to see such a great turn out on the social front with a few debut paddlers in the mix. Wern Van Molendorff came up in 1st place in the social division. Well done Wern!
A big thanks to Bay Union for allowing SUPSA to run their second National Race Event in conjunction with the renowned King of the BaySurf Ski Race.
Special thanks to John Oliver and his team for timing the event and all the other race committee members and the event sponsors without which, this race wouldn’t be possible!
2017 King of the Bay Race Results