The Cockatoo Cup is now finding itself a cornerstone of Australia Day celebrations for Sydney based paddlers, with another huge turn out this year in the calm waters around Cockatoo Island.
Being from the other side of the city in the East, this isn’t a stretch of water we paddle a lot, but it’s a really nice part of the Harbour, where a two lap race is set for the competitors. Pacific Dragons are the guys behind the race, a club of dragon boat and outrigger paddlers, and judging by the massive amount of volunteers they have helping at the event, must have a very healthy membership. Everything runs very smoothly, from the ski drop off in the car park of Drummoyne Sailing Club, to the fast registration and the quick access onto the water.
The race format is that of a handicap system, with paddlers submitting times to be then provided with a starting time. In all honesty, it’s a very hard system to get 100% correct when paddlers aren’t being recorded ahead of the event, but the organisers do a good job of trying to set fair handicaps and it generally works well. There were all sorts of craft on the water, from surfskis and spec skis, to sea kayaks and outriggers. The Cockatoo Cup has two laps of approx 7km, for a 14km total (we did 14.4km this year), and the short course, with the cute name of Cup Cake Cup, has a shorter 8km format, circling Cup Cake Island. Needless to say, post race nutrition lends heavily on the short course’s name, and the cup cakes were flying!
The handicap starts going off in 3-minute intervals, with the back markers hungrily chasing those who have gone off ahead. It makes for some fun racing and a different perspective for all the paddlers. This year, line honours, and the Cockatoo Cup went to none other than Nina Malmström who had a very solid paddle. Full results are to be found here. Lines honours are available in the results, and if you click Scratch Times, you can get a breakdown of the actual times everyone did.
For me, it was a chance to do some racing after a bit of a break from the last few races of the year, where Team Think work came first as we had a bunch of our sponsored athletes racing hard at some big races. I had a really fun paddle, setting off in a group of 4. The pace was on from the start, and it was a bit of a shock to the system to be back in race mode, but I was happy to eventually finish in second place behind the barn storming David Coward who got home 15 secs ahead of me. Thanks for the great race dude, always a pleasure.
The Cockatoo Cup signals the start of the 2017 Harbour Series, and the season promises to be another good one, with the committee and various race organizers doing their very best to bring well run and varied races to the Sydney paddling community. I urge you to support them as they try to help grow our sport even more.
Next race is the now infamous Makai Cup in Ulladulla, and it’s back to big ocean swells and hopefully a strong North East wind as a whole bunch of surfski nut cases descend on the South Coast. Looking forward to being in the middle of it!
See you on the water,