CAUSE FOR CONFIDENCE AFTER HILL AND SMITH WIN FORSTER OCEAN CLASSIC
Cory Hill didn’t allow himself to get carried away after winning the opening race of the Shaw and Partners Forster Race Weekend.
His first triumph in two and a half years, he knew the real challenge was still to come.
So, after another emphatic victory in the 20-kilometre Forster Ocean Classic, the two-time World Champion is ready to admit just how much it means.
“I’m really happy because it was a really tricky paddling race, which is something I actually don’t love.
“To win a race where we were doing 4:30’s or 4:15’s, it was good for my confidence to know that I’m back, or that I’ve still got it.”
“I’ve always been able to grind, but recently I haven’t won a race like that… so that was cool.”
The final results illustrate a resounding performance.
In bouncy conditions, buffed by light winds that offered few opportunities to rest on runners, Hill crossed the line in a time of 1:31:39.
That was almost two minutes ahead of Michael Booth (1:33:24) who surged through the field into second – and his best surfski result in years – and Tom Norton (1:33:55) in third.
Sam Norton (1:34:22), Greg Tobin (1:34:50) and two-time Olympian Riley Fitzsimmons (1:35:01) filled out the extended podium.
Hill admits the size of his winning margin comes as somewhat of a surprise.
After an early duel with Sam Norton, Hill found himself side-by-side with Tom Norton at crunch-time in the race.
“At 15-kilometres we were next to each other, then a couple of runs came and I just linked them together well.”
“It was good to win a bigger event, because after yesterday [13-kilometre Nine Mile] where Tommy made a mistake and Sam also did too, there was a bit of a question mark over my form.
“It was good to actually be in the competition with those guys and out-paddle them.”
For Hill, that’s the most pleasing aspect.
He admits it wasn’t the perfect performance, but he saw enough within himself to feel heartened approaching the high-stakes international season.
“I don’t feel like I’m there yet, but I know I’m on the way,” he says.
“It’s just consistency. I felt I was travelling well, then I had my elbow injury, then I was back on track, then we moved house.
“It’s been a bit disjointed, but I guess it’s amazing what can happen when you put together a few good weeks of training.”
“Obviously Australia has one of the hottest fields in the world, so it’s good to be on top of that right now. But there’s just so much uncertainty.”
“What are the South Africans doing, what is Gordan [Harbrecht] doing, what are all of these other people doing who we haven’t had the opportunity to race.”
“Hopefully by then I will have had that consistency in my training.”
The top three of the Shaw and Partners Forster Ocean Classic: Cory Hill (centre), Michael Booth (right) and Tom Norton (left).
In the women’s battle, it was Jemma Smith who claimed back-to-back titles – and she couldn’t have been more convincing.
Smith finished in a time of 1:46:24, some four and a half minutes ahead of Hannah Minogue (1:50:59) and Hannah Sculley (1:54:19).
Sascha Taurins (1:55:29), Montannah Murray (1:57:38) and Phoebe Woodhouse (2:00:29) rounded out the podium.
“I’m feeling really good but I’m glad that it’s over,” she laughs.
“I was a bit nervous heading into the weekend because I hadn’t really done the work, having focused on Aussies and that shorter form of racing.
“It was a big two races, but I’m really happy with the result.”
Jemma Smith (centre) stood on top of the women’s podium, with Hannah Minogue (left) in second and Hannah Sculley (right) in third.
Illness forced Friday’s Nine Mile winner Danielle McKenzie to withdraw from the race before it began.
Following that win, she revealed to The Paddler that she was bed-ridden until an hour before the start.
That denied paddlers the chance to witness another battle between McKenzie and Smith
“I was really excited to line up against such a strong female field on Friday,” Smith explains. “Not just Dani, but also [three-time Australian ironwoman champion] Georgia Miller who was racing for the first time.
“Dani and I took different lines in that race, and I actually didn’t see her from the two-kilometre mark all the way until the end.
“It was a shame that she came down with illness and wasn’t able to race, but I was just really grateful to line up both days against really strong competition.”
It’s been an exceptionally busy few weeks for Smith.
After competing at the Australian Surf Lifesaving Titles, she took part in a closed time trial as part of her push for selection in the senior national sprint kayak team.
“My body is definitely feeling it,” she admits. “I’ve been sick the past few days with a cold, so I think my body needs a bit of a rest.”
“But before then, I have one more race with the national kayaking titles in a few weeks. After that, I’m looking forward to some down time.”
Her results at that event will determine just how much rest she can afford.
Smith is hoping to be named on the Australian Under 23 team to compete at the World Championships later in the year.
If she is successful, that may impact on her hopes of competing at the Ocean Racing World Championships, held around the same time.
Although, it won’t necessarily rule her out.
“I was hoping I might be able to get over there and line up in both, but we’ll just see what happens. I’m not exactly sure what that will all look like yet.”
“I’m definitely looking towards the back end of the year to the WA Race Week, because we haven’t been over there for two years now and I’m absolutely itching for some really good downwinds.”
The fourth round of the Australian Ocean Racing Series produced a stack of seriously impressive results.
Cade Barnes (1:37:44) continued his strong run of form by finishing ninth overall, while taking out the Over 40 division.
He did so over one of the sport’s all-time greats in Ben Allen. The 2010 Dubai Shamaal winner made his return to the sport, second in the Over 40’s in a time of 1:38:18. Ben Constable (1:39:16) was third.
Rising star Jake Morris (1:37:55) finished 10th overall on his way to a big win in the Under 17 division, ahead of Harrison Taurins (1:43:07) and William Watts (1:52:06). Eli Newton was first in the Under 21’s in 1:51:50.
After watching his son Jackson defend with Aussies ski title, Olympic great Dan Collins (1:39:54) was too strong in the Over 50’s, beating home Dean Gardiner (1:40:25) and Jim Walker (1:41:21).
Jeremy Norton can claim bragging rights over his sons Sam and Tom, winning the Over 60 division in 1:48:47, ahead of John Bush (1:53:10) and Paul Lancaster (1:56:45).
Kalani Ives (2:01:48) was the fastest female Under 17 paddler, ahead of Tylah Richards (2:15:35).
Lovaine Mackie (2:10:56) beat home Sara Hawkins (2:12:05) for the Over 50 crown, while Mandy Dean (2:12:54) was the Over 40 champion.
In the men’s doubles, Team Vesley (1:40:18) were dominant winners ahead of Team The Boys (1:48:14) and Team Outlaw Paddling SHSC (2:10:54). Team De Vos & Saffron Blonde Express (2:02:02) took out the female double.
While Team Cam & Tracy (1:52:16) were the fastest mixed doubles crew, with Team Harmsen (1:59:08) in second and Team Jelly (2:18:03) in third.
For event organiser Dean Gardiner, the thrilling racing was second to the atmosphere off the water around the Shaw and Partners Forster Race Weekend.
“People generally had a really good time,” he says.
“We want this event to grow and become something like The Doctor and WA Race Week, and it’s helped to set up a really exciting Australian Ocean Racing Series.”
“Shaw and Partners’ welcome dinner, and also the fact they looked after breakfast at the café for competitors, all helped to make the event pretty special.”
“They went the extra mile to support the event while the support from the local community was exceptional, lead by Barrington Coast Council and Forster Surf Club.”
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