2016 Bridgetown Wildwater Racing_ Geegelup Cup
The venue of the final race of the ‘Wildwater’ racing season is the historical town of Bridgetown where paddlers from around Western Australia travel to compete for the ‘Geegelup cup’. The winner of the race claims the WA state Wildwater Champion and also the series champions.
The name ‘Geegelup’ comes from the original name of the area, a tribal name of the local indigenous people before the settlement of white people. If you want to know more about the history, visit www.bridgetownwahistory.com
Our 7km course is set on the Blackwood River, amongst the majestic rolling valleys and farm lands where the river twists and winds it’s way through the valley and including 8 rapids. In many cases, the water current leads under trees where the paddlers must stay alert at all times to avoid trouble. The river level on Friday was at 11.7 and the rain started to fall. In fact, it fell all weekend. By Saturday, the river started to climb again and by Sunday we had a river level of 12.0. Many paddlers practice the course on Friday and Saturday morning, to familiarize themselves with the obstacles on the river. It was a great social paddle and confidence building experience.
On Saturday, before the race, we held our race briefing to inform paddlers about safety requirements on the river and discuss the race format. We also held a minute silence for our good friend Sue Quick who was tragically taken from us, earlier in the year on the same stretch of river. Many of the paddlers who attended the weekend were actually paddling on the same weekend when Sue was taken. Sue would regularly attend our Bridgetown weekends and last year took out the women’s Wildwater Champion award. RIP.
It was then time to get on with the business of our teams race. The idea is to create evenly matched teams consisting of 3 paddlers. 8 teams were created from the 25 paddlers (1 team of 4) with a mixture of experience and boat speed. Although this is a race, the objective is for a bit of fun and for experienced paddlers to assist new paddlers in finding the perfect race lines around obstacles. This format is also a very safe way for paddlers to race the course with the security of having team mates to look after each other. All teams must stay with each other and cross the finish line together.
There were a few swimmers amongst the teams and the obstacle which claimed most of the paddlers was a section of river where once you exit the rapid, you need to make a sharp right turn between ti trees. (known as ‘The Big V’ or Championships). If you miss calculate the turn, you will find yourself tangled in the trees. Fortunately, we had a safety paddler on location and paddlers/ swimmers made it through safely. We later awarded the swimmers with swimming caps and floaties at the Saturday night teams awards. Unfortunately for one paddler who took a swim at Photographers Rapid. He swam beside the ski that he was paddling until it hooked onto a tree and folded around the branch protruding through the water. Our two safety boats ensured the paddler was safe but it was too dangerous to rescue the ski. It remained around the tree for the weekend and will be removed when the water level drops. Our paddler was then taken back to the finish line by one of the spectators. (I will point out that boats wrapping around trees can happen in low water as well, due to the force of flowing water.)
The winner of the teams race was team #7 _ Peter G/ Neil L/ Bonnie M in a convincing time of 36m 23s, second place was team #6 Kieran S/ Lawrence G/ Ballie L in 39m 18s and third place to team #3 Warren S/ Demi O/ Christopher G in 39m 38s
Winners were awarded bottles of wine and chocolates while the last placed team enjoyed a bag of peanuts. We all enjoyed a night at the Bridgetown Hotel for dinner, where approx. 60 people joined in a night of fun and great food. Some even made it over to the Freemason’s Hotel across the road and rocked on into the late hours in front of the live band….and behaved them selves of course.
Paddlers arrived on Sunday morning, rugged up and ready for another big day of racing. The river level had risen again over night and the conversation turned to what lines are people taking. Chicken chutes (short cuts around the main line) were now considered racing lines. This race is an individual pursuit race where paddlers set off in 1 minute intervals and try to beat the times, and possibly catch the paddler that sets of in front of them. Slower paddlers set off first with the faster paddlers starting further back. The first paddler (double plastic) set off with a cheer from the crowd and passed under the main bridge. Unfortunately, they were in for a swim at the first bend and as the next few paddlers came through, there was a few more swimmers. They all looked after each other and were soon back on course. At Haystacks Rapid, most of the paddlers took the new race line on the right hand side, avoiding the spectacular rapid altogether. The racing was fierce and there were a few paddlers that caught the rest of the field. Josh Kippin was in fine form after his recent win in the Avon Descent. He soon caught Wayne Martin and as they battled it out, they passed other paddlers like they were on a social paddle.
Eventually Josh was too good for Wayne and he extended his lead by another minute to finish in first place (26m 57s). Wayne finished 2nd (28m 57s) and young Kieran Simpson finishing 3rd (31m 54s)
Sam Pilton finished first place in the Women’s (32m 21s) with Bonnie Metzke in second place in a time (35m 10s) Sam definitely showed great composure through the course and her skill through the rapids would put most to shame.
Peter Gigengack was the fastest of the ‘Wave Hopper’ class (33m 15s) with Brett Young finishing second (34m 56s) followed by Kris Smith (35m 45s)
In the sundries class (boats not fitting the wildwater boat classification) we had a double plastic kayak, two plastic skis and two K1 composite kayaks. Matt Dean (k1) set off first with his mate Simon Roll (k1) behind. In a strong paddling display, Matt smashed through the course and Simon who also smashed through, was unable to catch him. Matt 27m 17s, Simon 28m 7s. Roland Bolt in 3rd place, made a good time of 33m 41s on his plastic ski and shows no fear in the white water. But the bad luck story of the day would go to Anne who unfortunately broke a rudder cable on her plastic ski and had to withdraw from the race, half way through the course. Fortunately, the boys in the double plastic kayak were on the scene to assist with taking the boat over the hill and directed Anne to the nearest road. Unfortunately, the paddock they had walked into was surrounded by electrified fencing and poor Anne was left walking the fields looking for an exit. The word had been passed on to race officials that Anne was off the river, but we still had no sign of her. It was a nervous time as people searched the roads. Eventually, it was the guys in the double kayak that were driving back, found her and gave her a lift back to her car.
We all made it through safely and enjoyed a lunch at ‘The Cidery’ who put on a wonderful lunch. We awarded trophies to the series winners and also awarded our state champions Josh Kippin and Sam Pilton.
The hospitality of Bridgetown was amazing, and there were a lot of happy/ exhausted faces at the end of the weekend. I would like to thank all the competitors who looked after each other so well. Thank you to the families and supporters who joined us and offered help. Thank you to the WWR committee who all helped with the organising. Safety boat paddlers Steve Pilton, Andrew Pope, Alan & Derek and to our helpers along the river standing with throw bags. Peter and Jane Liddle for race start and Greg Kippin for doing the timing.
Everyone was on alert with the high water level and at the end of the day, it was a very enjoyable water level to play on and a very sociable weekend with a bit of good competition added.
Looking forward to doing it again next season.
Wildwater Chairperson/ Race Director