More than 55 paddlers from four Lower North Island clubs converged on Whanganui's Lake Wiritoa for the inaugural Central Sprint Regatta at the weekend.
Hosted by the kayaking division of the Whanganui Multisport Club, the regatta was a warm-up event for the NZCT NZ Canoe Sprint Nationals in May on Lake Karapiro. That event which was postponed due to the February outbreak of Covid-19.
The regatta was based on a divisional format which pitted competitors against each other based on their ability rather than age group or gender. This produced some close races with barely a second between first and last place. The regatta featured 100m and 300m sprints.
The standout event was the Division A 300m A Final dominated by the region's fastest
men with Waitara's Robson Old comfortably securing a gold medal while Whanganui's rising star, 15-year-old Zane Mills-Nossiter, also put in a respectable performance against his more experienced competitors.
The 100m event also sported some close racing with barely a boat-length separating the first four paddlers across the line. Robson Old took first place once again with Whanganui's Ethan Ross hot on his heels in fourth place.
The Division A 300m C Final was dominated by Whanganui paddlers with the trio of Angus Sewell, Sophie Brooke and George Pedley battling it out for the podium places with Sewell crossing the finish line first closely followed by his club mates Brooke and Pedley.
In the Division A 100m B Final Hawke's Bay's Damien da Silva and Whanganui's Angus Sewell battled for first place in a nail-bitingly close race which ended with da Silva narrowly pipping the younger Sewell by barely a second.
The C Final featured Whanganui's George Pedley and Waitara's Julia Padrutt and Lachie Moles tussling for the podium places in a very tight race, with Pedley narrowly managing to hold onto first closely followed by Padrutt and Moles.
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Whanganui enjoyed strong representation in the C division, with junior paddlers Greta Cox and Hadley Wilson coming in at fourth and fifth place and adult novice Rebecca Scott won silver in the 300m B Final of Division C.
In division D, Addison O'Leary won her 300m A Final with club mate Hayley Stewart close behind in second while Sophie Taylor-Pope also managed silver in the Division C 100m C Final.
Whanganui's youngest athletes, 11-year-olds Ashley Stewart and Ryder Zimmerman enjoyed their first ever races, with both getting the opportunity to race against each other and peers from other clubs and Stewart even managed a podium placing in the D Division B Final.
Whanganui Multisport Club junior coach Abby Hurley, who herself raced at the regatta, said: "It was great to see all the junior paddlers enjoying the regatta, which for many was their first ever race. They've been training hard all summer and their results from this event are really going to motivate them for Nationals next month."
The regatta was intended to be a one-off event for lower North Island paddlers to have something to train for after the NZ kayak nationals were postponed from February to mid May due to Covid-19. However, following the immensely positive feedback from attendees club secretary George Pedley said they will be looking at options to host a similar event next year.
The organisers would like to thank the Wanganui Water Ski Club for the use of their lakeside facilities and Wanganui Surf Lifeguard Service for providing on-water safety.