- Sunday 30th October – 4 Bridges (13km) and 2 Bridges (4km)
- Open to all man-powered water craft – e.g. kayaks, rowing boats, Waka Ama, Surf Skis
- $20 entry fee (per person, per event)
- PH (06) 349 1815 Louise Bird (Special Projects – Wanganui Events Trust)
- PH 027 420 5577 Aaron Cox (Event Director)
- www.riverchallenge.co.nz |
- 4km Race - 13 Craft - 23 Athletes
- 13km Race - 38 Craft - 60 Athletes
Whanganui River Challenge 2011 - Post-Event Report
Water sport athletes from all over the lower North Island descended on Wanganui on Sunday 30th October to compete in the third annual Whanganui River Challenge (formerly named the 4 Bridges River Race). Held to coincide with ideal tide conditions this iconic river event attracted competitors in a multitude of craft including kayaks (single, double and quads), ocean skis, rowing doubles and quads, waka ama OC1/OC6, surf skis, surf lifesaving canoes, outriggers, and open Canadian canoes.
Around 65 athletes took to the water – some to race seriously and others to get out of their comfort zone and try something new. Serious racers included K4 mixed team Mana – William Wilkins (Hawkes Bay), Marianne Archer (Mana), Marty McDowell (Mana) and Anne Cairns (Palmerston North). Despite having never raced together before, the team was first across the line in the 4km (2 bridges) short course in a shade over sixteen minutes. With Archer and Wilkins fresh from racing in the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Singapore, you could say the team was always destined for a strong finish. The winners were closely followed by two local K4 crews who took out 2nd and 3rd placings and single sculler in the men’s 40+ River Warrior category, Pat Carroll of Wanganui, claimed 4th place.
Bringing up the rear in the only Canadian Canoe to take to the water were Wanganui locals Dion Healey and Shane Rawson. It was Healey’s inaugural go at the event and Rawson’s second, having competed in last year’s river challenge. Neither competitor was phased at having come last as they achieved their main aim of having a bit of fun and not falling out.
Locals from the Aramoho Wanganui Rowing Club took out the 13km (4 bridges) race in their mixed rowing quad. Pat Spriggens, Craig Smith, Kate Jordan and Kerri Gowler showed strong form and their quad was the only craft to cross the line in under an hour (58.14). Hot on their tail were K1 and multisport paddlers with just one second separating the next four place getters – Marty McDowell (K1, 1.01.57), Adam Frazer (MU, 1.01.59), William Wilkins (K1, 1.02.00) and Ryan Welch (K1, 1.02.13).
Despite numbers being down on previous years, Event Director Aaron Cox believed the event was well supported and will continue to grow as it firmly cemented itself on the water sports events calendar. “The Whanganui River is ideal for this type of racing because it’s calm and tidal, and has excellent spectator viewing from the banks”, Cox said.
A decision was made by race organisers during the lead-up to cancel Saturday racing in favour of a significantly larger and more competitive field on Sunday. For those competitors keen to race both the 4km and 13km races on Sunday, there was sufficient time to prepare between races and a number of enthusiastic racers took the opportunity to paddle 17km in supreme conditions.
With both races starting and finishing alongside the newly developed Whanganui Riverfront at Union Boat Club and with fantastic vehicle, bicycle and foot access along its length, it proved the ideal spectator race with plenty of great vantage points. The weather also came to the party with mostly sunny conditions and a brief spell of rain in the early afternoon.
The race briefing took place at 9.45am on the grassy area adjacent to the club. All competitors were registered by 9.30am and allocated race packs and numbers. The first race (4km) set off slightly later than the 10am start time pushing the longer race (13km) out to an 11.15am start. Prize-giving was underway by 2.30pm and with plenty of fantastic place-getter and spot prizes awarded, the weary athletes left the building with smiles on their faces and a vow to return next year for more fun on the water. Thanks to our wonderful sponsors for their generosity in donating product and contributing dollars to make the event such a success. (Please see the full list of sponsors below.)
With an impressive field of competitors racing in 2011, we believe this event has huge potential to put Wanganui on the sporting map. We are developing plans to increase the number of competitors on the water, spectators on the bank and further cement this in the ‘must do’ category of national sporting events.
Crafts, although racing in a mass field, do compete within various categories, thus allowing multiple winners to be recognised. Times are also recorded, thereby allowing personal bests to be targeted by competitors for future events.
The event is owned by Wanganui Multisport and Triathlon Club and continues to be driven by Aaron Cox, a previous New Zealand kayak representative and World Championship title holder. In 2011 and going forward, the Club partnered with the Wanganui Events Trust in the planning, delivery and future development of this event. WET is a not-for-profit charitable trust whose purpose is to promote participation in sport and recreation for all people in or visiting Wanganui.
The course for the Whanganui River Challenge highlighted several unique features:
- It encompassed the four city bridges and incorporated Corliss (Rabbit) Island as the bottom turn (13km race).
- It was situated in beautiful downtown Wanganui close to the city centre with ample parking, great riverside access and excellent viewing points.
- Each of the two courses was a one loop lap which for the entirety of the racing could be viewed from the road or riverside walkways beside the Whanganui River.
- The event course was suitable for any paddle or oared craft to compete in, due to its location on flat water. Timing was carefully planned around tidal conditions.
- The width of the River allowed a vast number and type of craft to be accommodated.
- The event was open to all. No trials or pre-event selection required to race against the best or for competitors to better their own personal best.
With growing support this event has the potential to become the biggest paddle/oared event in New Zealand. Very few events in New Zealand present the opportunity of hosting such a variety of craft on the water collectively competing over the same course. The future is looking bright! We plan to build on the event in 2012 with added spectator features such as food and refreshment options lining the riverfront, live entertainment, and additional short and long course races.
What made this event special and unique … a brief history of the Whanganui River
Long, wide and slow flowing rivers have great difficulty avoiding interesting histories. This is what the Rhine, Nile and Whanganui Rivers have in common. According to Maori folklore Mount Taranaki started the story when he fled from an enraged Tongariro, who was fairly upset over Taranaki's desires for his wife Pihanga. The trench he left as he headed to the coast filled with water and subsequently became an ideal site for a River Challenge event, amongst other things. The Tangata Whenua were the first canoeists to start training on-site.
Maori were attracted to the Whanganui River in its sheltered fertile valley with an abundant food supply. Flowing 290 kilometers, the river starts high up on Mt Tongariro in the centre of the North Island, moving down towards Wanganui via Taumarunui before it reaches the beautiful Tasman Sea on the west coast.
Once increased numbers of European settlers arrived in the country, the area around the mouth of the Whanganui River became a logical site for the establishment of a new town. By 1860, a population of approximately 2000 had settled in Wanganui.
Today, Wanganui and the Whanganui River provide a home for a multitude of lifestyle activities for locals and tourists. Over the last 1000 years or so, blood, sweat and tears have been poured into the Whanganui. Continuing a tradition, outstanding water sport athletes added to that pool on the 30th of October 2011.
Proudly supported by:
Wanganui District Council
Prizes and race pack product kindly donated by:
|Katie Brown Glass
|Em’s Power Cookies and Bars
||Professionals Coull Battell Real Estate
|Day Two Kayaks
||Wanganui Glass School
|The Bike Shed
||Marine Services Wanganui Ltd
||Ideal Electrical Suppliers
|Mitre 10 Mega
||Supervalue Supermarket, Gonville
|CIE Nursery at Wanganui Prison