The race gets to a flying start.
A cautious approach in tricky swell paid off for New South
Wales' Mark Minchin, who narrowly beat Tassie up-and-comer Sam
Norton to take out the 2012 Go Natural Graeme Long Memorial Paddle
on Victoria's Surf Coast on January 14th.
The young gun held off the old hand for much of the race, but a
fatigued Norton came unstuck at the final turn thanks to a tough
reef break at Point Danger. Here, Minchin seized the opportunity to
gain ground, just managing to edge out the Australian K1 champ in a
nail-biting sprint finish.
Mark Minchin and Sam Norton sprint for the finish.
"Sam had a 150-metre lead on me for much of the race, but as we
approached Point Danger, that gap closed surprisingly quickly,"
Minchin explains. "Sam told me later that he had come unstuck on
one of the reefs just before Point Danger, whereas I had taken a
deeper, more conservative line and it paid off."
Now in its fourth year, the Graeme Long - named for the Torquay
surf lifesaving legend who tragically lost his life paddling the
same course - is Victoria's only downwind marathon and takes in
some of Australia's most rugged and iconic coastline. Starting at
Urqhuart's Bluff and finishing at Fisherman's Beach in Torquay, the
26-kilometre course passes a number of challenging reefs, as well
as the world-famous surf breaks of Bells Beach and Winkipop.
Each year, the race has managed to turn on thrilling downwind
conditions, and 2012 was no exception; a 15-knot southerly wind and
2.5-metre southwesterly swell combined to provide some fast, yet
challenging, runs that tested the skill of even the most seasoned
L-R: Sam Norton, Mark Minchin and Tim Altman.
"The ocean in the south is unlike any other and has a totally
different feel to Australia's east coast," says Minchin. "Somehow
it demands a higher level of respect. One senses that the cold
waters are more changeable and less forgiving. Of course this is a
large part of the race's appeal."
Rounding out the top five in the men's ski race was local
stalwart, Tim Altman, followed by Queensland's Adam McKane and
Kayak World Marathon champ, Michael Leverett. In the women's race,
reigning champ, Wendy Reyntjes, comfortably retained her title,
with her only rival, Victoria's Lisa Spain, pulling out of the race
after coming unstuck early on. A Torquay resident, Reyntjes used
her local knowledge to navigate the points and reefs with aplomb,
coming in an impressive 16th overall.
Wendy Reyntjes takes on the challenging swell.
In the OC1 competition, Victoria's Jason Shepherd was
victorious, with just 14 seconds separating second, third and
fourth place (Steve Miller, Steve Vegh and Rod Clark,
respectively). And in the OC2 race, experience again won out over
youth, with the local Bellbrae team of Rob Clarke and Jamie Guerow
beating Clarke's son Nicholas and teammate Dylan Guascolhe by more
than half-an-hour. In third place was Echuca-based team Rod Pell
and Brad Hunter, who get much of their training in on the mighty
OC1 Winner, Jason Shepherd
Some honourable mentions go to local OC6 outfit, Mixed Club -
the first OC6 team to ever take part in the race - and the brave
(some would say mad!) Rupert Lancashire, who completed the entire
26-kilomteres by stand-up paddleboard.
Mixed Team make history as the first-ever Go Natural Graeme
Long OC6 team.
This year also saw the introduction of the Go Natural Graeme
Long 'lite' course, designed to give less experienced paddlers a
chance to get some downwind experience over a shorter distance
(12km from Pt Addis to Fisherman's Beach). That race was won by
clubbie paddler, Adam Dew, in just over an hour, followed by
Torquay's Jo Ambrosi in second and Tim Gardyne in third. Special
mention goes to Ben Owzinsky who completed the course on a prone
paddleboard in one hour, 56 minutes.
"Yes! I've gone under two hours!" exclaimed an irrepressible
Owzinsky at the finish line.
Somehow, Ben Owzinsky still has energy to spare after 12km
For full results, follow the links below:
Natural Graeme Long Memorial Race: Pro Course (26km)
Natural Graeme Long Memorial Race: Lite Course (12km)