As the ferry left the idillic setting of Snug Cove, racers lined up bank to bank and waited nervously for the race director to signal the race start. I typically have a decent race start, but not today. To my horror an evil green mass of kelp and weed floated up from the bottom of the cove directly in front of my ski just moments after the race start. Wes was able to just slip by to the right, but I came to full stop despite cranking at full power... Completely grounded as the entire field shot away. Some of them were less then thrilled to suddenly have me parked in their way, but in my defense I was merely marking the hazard for everyone else to see. I paddled backward to get my ski off of the raft of weeds, then paddled hard and had to repeat once again as I was still tangled (despite have a small weedless rudder on the ski).
In racing you can't always control what happens, but you can control how you respond to what happens. Once clear of the cove the conditions kicked up considerably with the wind in the mid teens gusting to 20. I started to patiently pick my way through the very back of the field, and tried to politely ask for room to paddle through the tight clusters of paddlers duking it out as they worked hard to stay paddler side up. I had a good laugh at having start such a long race so far behind as the race leaders turned into fluorescent dots on the horizon.
The stretch of water along the south western and southern shore was a bit of a mess, but had enough movement that I could get some decent surfing and crashing glides in the rebounding swell, ferry and container ship wakes. It very much reminded me of the open coast off Vancouver Island and I loved it. I found my rhythm in the washing machine water and could still see the the leaders in the far distance, but a bit closer and decided to just have fun in the conditions and see how many places I could pick off over the course of the day. To my amazement I was able to surf my way back to the front group just before the course turned back north, within two or three boat lengths of Wes Hammer and Greg Redman and three sets of double skis another thirty seconds or so in front of them.
Once we rounded the southwestern cape and turned north, the wind was at our backs and pushing against a strong ebb tide. Wes and Greg hugged the shore, and I took a gamble with a line further offshore where I could surf one to two foot wind waves. Their line was clearly better, and I soon lost about a minute over the next five miles as we worked our way around the islands western shores. I caught a few decent waves, but not enough to make it worth the effort and my chase effort was starting to catch up to me.
I spent the rest of the day by myself chasing Greg and Wes. Sometimes I would make a little ground and then loose a little as I worked currents and rebounding wakes for snippets of extra speed while trying to keep a hefty bonk under control. Bob from Deep Cove had very wisely reminded me to bring some calories, and I a single GU saved me from a massive bonk.
In the last two miles of the race, I managed to snag a monster container ship wake that allowed me to catch up to and pass the double ski paddled by Chris Dobrovony and his doubles partner for third place. Wes pulled off another impressive win after getting a small gap on Greg Redman. Looking forward to seeing how the upcoming Canadian surfski champs play out between these two dominant paddlers.
After the race we all gathered on the dock for a beer and a fantastic salmon lunch. The top three racers from each category were treated to pie from Lime and Moon Pie Company. Simply fantastic event that I would love to race again.