Waka Ama: Champs steel themselves for repeat

Bay of Plenty waka ama crew Kingfisher Boats will look to go back-to-back in this weekend's Tauranga Harbour Challenge.

The crew, which is a mixture of Rotorua and Tauranga paddlers, has claimed the crowd of champions eight times in the race's 16-year history.

More than 500 competitors will take part in the popular event that starts and finishes just off shore from the picturesque Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club on Saturday.

Paddlers will head up the harbour past the Port of Tauranga and venture under the harbour bridge paddle to Maungatapu and return along the Otumoetai Channel before returning to the harbour bridge and on to the finish line.

Kingfisher Boats paddler Paul Roozendaal said the team were keen to notch up another win.

He said the team were feeling confident, but were expecting a tough challenge from a number of Auckland crews.

"Our team competed in an international event two weeks ago, the Takapuna Cup finishing third behind Pineula and Vaka Manu. They will be down this weekend and we are working hard to keep them from winning this year."

The top W6 open men's crews are expected to complete the 26km course in just under two hours while the top women's crews should be finished around the 2 hours 20 minute mark. Last year's women's champions Hei Matau Women from Rotorua are yet to confirm if they will defend their title.

Along with the six-man crews the race is open to singles and two men crews, however, their race is cut down to a 16km race.

Roozendaal said his squad will consist of Tyrin Thomas, Troy Dolman, Sam Baker, Bryce Irving, Jordan Edmonds and Roozendaal.

Racing gets underway at 9.40am for the W6 women and the W6 men start at 1.40pm at Sulphur Point Tauranga.

The organisers have arranged to have a spectator boat available to follow the crews during the race. The Luv Boat will follow both morning and afternoon races with it costing $15 per person and free for children under 16.

Race Programme:

9.40am: Start Race One; W6 women, W6 mixed.

9.50am: Start Race Two; W6 junior men, W6 junior women, W6 novice, W2 men, W1 men, surf ski men.

10am: Start Race Three; stand up paddler.

1.40pm: Start Race Four; W6 men.

1.50pm: Start Race Five; W2 mixed, W2 women, W1 women, surf ski women.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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