Sitting in the office of his Gold Coast accounting firm, Cory Hill laughs as he admits jet lag has finally caught up with him.

The three-time ICF World Champion successfully pulled off a 7 day, 35,000 kilometre smash-and-grab mission to claim victory at the 2024 Eurochallenge in Villajoyosa, Spain.

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

It was an extraordinary undertaking, but the motivation to do so was actually quite simple.

“I was listening to an episode of The Paddler’s Pod last year and it made me reflect on the results in my career, and that I had only ever won one race in Europe.” Hill says.

“I thought that I should get across there and try to do another race prior to Worlds later this year, given my last trip in 2022 was a bit of a nightmare.

“Thankfully, it seemed to be OK this time.”

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

Hill has won the biggest races in the world, but the Eurochallenge stood as one of few omissions.

He was well aware of what it would take to change that, arriving in Spain with an impressive block of training behind him.

But the father-of-three admits that when he first saw the “scary” weather forecast for race day, without much wind, he became nervous.

“I really didn’t want to race the Europeans in the flat because I was worried I’d get flogged,” he laughs.

Come race day, the conditions were more favourable for the field of 149 star-studded paddlers.

Europe’s biggest names, like Germany’s Gordan Harbrecht, Spain’s Walter Bouzan, France’s Hector Henot and Portugal’s Bernardo Pereira all moved to the front of the field in the opening few kilometres, along with South African Matthew Fenn.

But just three kilometres into the race, it was Hill who broke clear.

“I didn’t know how it was going to go down, but once it did, I felt comfortable and confident,” he says.

“I felt that I was going quite quick considering the conditions, then all of a sudden I looked to my outside and Bernardo was right there with Matt just behind him.

“I think the gap that I put on them from about the fourth kilometre to the eighth kilometre didn’t change at all, which was the disappointing part of the race for me. But at the same time, you can only do what you can do. I’m really pleased with the outcome.

Hill claimed his first Eurochallenge title in a time of one hour, 27 minutes and 26 seconds, ahead of Pereira (1:27:45) and Fenn (1:28:16).

Harbrecht (1:29:32) finished fourth in his first race of the season, while European Champion Henot (1:30:27) rounded out the top five.

Spain’s Judit Verges Xifra claimed the women’s crown after a thrilling battle with Great Britain’s Rosie Edwards.

The pair were neck-and-neck across the 22 kilometre course, before Xifra (1:41:27) prevailed by just three seconds over Edwards (1:41:30).

Chloe Bunnett (1:43:47), Thais Delriuex (1:44:59) and Amaia Osaba Olaberri (1:45:42) made up the top five.

To view the full results of the 2024 Eurochallenge, click here.

For Hill, focus now moves to the Molokai Challenge, where he’ll look to claim a fourth race crown.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself to win this one,” he says. “I’d hate to go to Molokai next and have doubts in my mind over if I was paddling well.”

Beyond that, planning is already underway for another title defence – this time at the ICF Ocean Racing World Championships in Madeira, Portugal in October.

Hill is the only paddler to have claimed three world titles, and he believes the experience of his Eurochallenge expedition will help him in his pursuit of a fourth.

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

“I’m a bit more sure about the best flight path to get there now, how many days beforehand I need to arrive, what sessions to do when I get there, that sort of thing.” Hill says.

“But at the same time, I know that Europe is just such a long way away that there’s no perfect answer. 

“Travelling and racing, you’re never going to feel completely fresh. It’s always going to hurt.”