The Gold Coast Ocean Classic – the first event of the Australian Ocean Racing Series – has been cancelled, casting further doubt on whether any major competition will be able to proceed this season.

With the Queensland state government again closing its borders due to the country’s second wave of COVID-19, organisers say they were left with no choice.

“It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was one we had to make,” Gold Coast Ocean Paddlers Club’s president Jeremy Cotter says.

“It was getting too hard to run a race that people could enjoy.

“And in the end, that’s what it’s all about.”

Officially, the September 26 race has been “postponed” with hopes that the current landscape may improve, but Cotter admits the prospect of it actually running this year are “not looking bright”.

All entrants will be given full refunds.

Although the popular event can still proceed under current state regulations, the loss of paddlers from New South Wales was one too hard to overcome.

“We get really well supported by New South Wales,” Cotter explains.

“We were going to get at least three trailers coming up from Sydney this year.

“We could run a race anyway knowing that 90% of the best paddlers in Australia are here on the Gold Coast, but that’s only one element,” Cotter explains.

“They’re not filling up all of your entries.

“You want to cater to everybody, you want John Smith to be able to get on the line and be next to Cory Hill.

“That’s the element of our sport that is so unique and you lose that when you have to cut your numbers so heavily.”

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

It’s unclear what this decision, and what Queensland’s new regulations, will mean for the Australian Ocean Racing Series.

Organisers had begun working to shift the $200,000 WA Race Week event to regional New South Wales, after being forced to cancel The Doctor.

The uncertainty around Queensland’s new border ban makes that challenge even harder.

But for Cotter and the Gold Coast Ocean Paddlers Club, they’re content to bide their time.

Sponsors of their signature race have already recommitted to any future date.

Now all they need is the competitors.

“Everyone went in with such high hopes, but it’s too hard to run an event when you can’t have all of your states there,” Cotter says.

“Especially when you’re trying to run a national event.”