NOCC teams conquer wild conditions at Coffs

On Saturday 14 March, conditions were looking tough to say the least for Race 5 of the South Queensland Zone OC6 outrigger series, held at Coffs Harbour. The day before the weather was ominous – the sky was black and the rain was the heaviest seen for a while. The prospects of ocean racing the next day looked doubtful with the unsafe conditions.

Race day dawned with things at the beach still pretty miserable; the rain had stopped but the wind was howling at 20 knots and building, whipping up 2 – 5 metre swells. Noosa paddlers were not deterred, confident that their training in the challenging conditions of the Noosa bar and ocean would pay off – and overall it did.

The 11 Km short course was the first race of the day, starting an hour late, with two NOCC teams competing in the field; Master Women and Senior Master Men. The Master Women crew included three novices, Jill Bingham, Angie Pickering and Kylie Cirillo, with three experienced paddlers Lisa Phelan, Pascale Hegarty and the Noosa women’s coach and steerer, Stacey Phillis. Despite the rough conditions they did exceptionally well, coming home first in their category in a time of 1 hour and 19 minutes – 11 minutes ahead of the canoe that took second place!

The newly-formed team of Senior Master Men (Maurice Farrell, Roger Chaffey, Glen Knoblauch, Bob Hobart, Rainer Hopf, steered by Ian Skyring), was up in the lead pack until the last 3 Km of the race when they were caught on a steep wave that tipped them into the washing-machine conditions. After the effort required to get back into the canoe in the wild sea, the team recovered and managed to come home second in their category, in a time of 1 hour and 23 minutes, only 3 minutes behind the leaders.

The next race was the women’s 18 Km long course, and Noosa was represented by the Senior Master Women’s crew of Bernie Patterson, Rhonda Crockford, Cecily Ridderhof, Jacquie Irving, Pip Kay, steered by Wendy Mabbott. As they entered the harbour mouth, a tactical manoeuvre set them up for a bolt to the finish line, overtaking the Gold Coast Senior Master Mixed crew they’d battled with the entire race. The jubilant crew came home first in their division in a time of 2 hours and 4 minutes.

The day wore on, the winds freshened, and by the time the men’s 18 Km long course finally started (over 2 hours late at 4.15pm), the conditions were even more challenging. Heading out past the breakwater and South into the wind really tested the metal of all crews, with a few crews from other clubs capsizing on the way to the Southern buoy. Once around the buoy, the wind and the swell were astern of the canoes, providing a good fast run North back to the harbour. Some canoes were travelling at 20 kph and many took on water as the canoes seemed to porpoise through the rough conditions.

Noosa was well represented in the long course by four men’s teams – one Master crew, two Senior Masters and one Golden Master crew. The impressive Master Men (John Goller, Peter Williams, Martin Courtnay, Michael Blumentals, Saul Everingham, steered by Paul Squire) took line honours and gold in this race, in a time of 1 hour 39 minutes.

The two Senior Master crews did battle for 1 hour and 44 minutes, coming across the line first and third in their division, separated by a mere 2 minutes. The first Senior Master Men’s team consisted of Don Smith, Graham Woods, Roger Arbuckle, Brad Burgess, Mick Hamnett, steered by Marco Rocco, and the other crew, Des Mabbott, Ian Fielding-Smith, Warren White, Wayne Phillis, Dave Patterson, were steered by Phil Bensted.

The Golden Master Men were also pleased to finish first in their category. Gary Hanlon, Craig Harris, Brian Rogers, John McAlpin and Hugh Bingham were steered by Bill Ridderhof, and finished in a time of 1 hour and 54 minutes.

It was great to see Noosa so well represented at this most challenging but fun race. The Noosa Outrigger Canoe Club is going from strength to strength with new members joining, new canoes being added to its armoury and an increasing number of paddlers joining the competitive contingent. If you’d like to join the club and be a part of the experience, either as a competitive or social paddler, please check the NOCC website –

Story: Jo Searle