The power-couple of Australian downwind paddling, Georgia Laird and Tom Norton win the opening race at the Voost Shaw and Partner Forster Race Week.
NORTON & LAIRD CLAIM EARLY WINS AT FORSTER RACE WEEKEND
The Voost Shaw and Partners Forster Race Week is off to a dramatic start, with Tom Norton and Georgia Laird claiming thrilling victories in the Nine Mile opener, which doubles as the second round of the Australian Ocean Racing Series.
Norton went toe-to-toe with two-time ICF World Champion Cory Hill in an incredibly tight battle, only gaining the upper hand in the final moments.
The pair were drag-racing around the last rocky point when Hill pushed slightly wider to give Norton room.
However, in the process of doing so, he slewed his ski and shot off the shoulder of a wave, allowing Norton to claim the victory.
The pair diced at the front of the field over the 13 kilometre course, maximizing the south-westerly wind that was creating building, short-period runs over the left shoulder the longer the race went on.
Norton took line honours in a time of 52 minutes and 27 seconds, just 13 seconds ahead of Hill (52:40), while Michael Booth stepped back onto the podium finishing a further 33 seconds behind (53:13).
Mackenzie Hynard claimed fourth (53:40) while Gold Coast ironman Taddy McDonnell rounded out the top five (53:55).
In the women’s race, Georgia Laird crossed the line in 58 minutes and 26 seconds.
That was enough to see her finish 16 seconds ahead of current ICF World Champion Danielle McKenzie (58:42) and bring her winning streak of five major races to an end.
Jordan Mercer was just six seconds behind (58:48), with Jemma Smith (59:49) in fourth while Hannah Sculley (1:00:44) finished in fifth place.
“It was good, but it was a very hard race,” Norton says.
“Cory and I were neck-and-neck the whole way, going stroke-for-stroke.
“It definitely gives it a lot more meaning when he’s in it, because he’s such a great paddler – he gives a race so much integrity just by being there.”
“I was lucky with the slip-up at the end and to get the win.
“Even though it’s not a Doctor or 20 Beaches, a win’s a win, I guess.”
Hill was full of praise for his regular Gold Coast training partner, in what is his first race since welcoming his second son Ari seven weeks ago.
“I’m really happy with how I’m going,” he says. “Tommy would be up there with the very best in the world right now… and it looks like we’ll have many more races like this over the years to come.”
“Similar to when we had Coda, our first-born, I really want to claim a win in front of both kids now.
“Hopefully tomorrow is a different story and I can do something special.”
For Laird, today was a special outing, stepping back on top of the podium after what’s being an incredibly competitive, but challenging, couple of years’ racing.
“It feels good to finally put together a good race,” she says.
“All of us girls are very close and Dani, Jordy and I were neck-and-neck the whole way, taking turns leading.
“I just tried to enjoy the runs, and I think it paid off.
“I train with [McKenzie] a lot and she paddles so, so well at training.
“She’s extremely tough and she’s one of the hardest competitors to beat.
“I know if I have a good race that I have the potential to beat her… so it feels good to put that race together and finally get the win.”
Although today was a sanctioned Australian Ocean Series Race, and also the first half of the Forster point-score, boasting $40,000 in prize money, it isn’t the major focus this weekend.
Tomorrow’s Forster Ocean Classic is just one of three “premier” rated events on the calendar, alongside The Doctor and 20 Beaches.
The forecast is difficult, to say the least – strong offshore winds will greet paddlers, as well as a never-before paddled course.
“It’ll be interesting to see how the course changes tomorrow, as we’re starting further south and finishing at Forster, and interesting to see how that changes the race.” Laird says.
Norton adds, “it’s going to be interesting, but everyone is in the same boat.
“It’s about cooling down properly now, eating right and resting up.
“We’ll see what happens and hope the fitness is there.”
The Paddler will bring you a full race report as soon as tomorrow’s winners cross the finish line.