Sprint and Head to Head at Okere Falls on the Kaituna

By Sportscene



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It was a fine Spring day for the opening event of the White Water Rafting 2012 National Championships in the Bay of Plenty on Friday. The first day was on the Kaituna at Okere Falls just north of Rotorua and featured the short, sharp and spectacular Sprint and Head 2 Head races. Local and international paddlers are taking part, including teams from the Czech Republic, Australia and Japan.

It is an important weekend for the Kiwi crews. Up for grabs  is selection for the New Zealand team for the IRF World Rafting World Championships in Rotorua and Kawerau from November 13 to 24, 2013.

After the morning’s Sprint race, Team Teikei from Japan lead Open Men. Japan are the current World Champions, winning the title in Costa Rica. Taku Ikeda and his crew have already won selection for 2013 and are using the New Zealand Nationals to test the water for next year. They blasted down the Sprint course in an impressive time of 2:30:48 to take the 100 maximum points.

In 2nd place was Team Bestie Czech and 3rd was first New Zealand crew, Team Ghost Chips. In Masters Men, Team BTA, battled it out with New Zealand rivals, Aotearoa Paddlers. BTA took maximum points in 2:44:41, with Aotearoa Paddlers close behind in 2:45:60, times that placed them 4th and 5th overall for the morning.

Team Teikei continued their dominance in the afternoon’s Head 2 Head, with double points on offer. The Japanese crew were all smiles at the end of the day’s racing and have impressed locals with their enthusiasm and precise, powerful paddling. Ghost Chips were the big movers, taking 2nd place and second overall ahead of Team Bestie Czech. For the two Australian crews – Team Doric from Sydney and Team Cairns – selection for 2013 is also on the line. They are 5th and 6th after day 1.

In Masters men, the mornings positons were reversed with Aotearoa Paddlers edging BTA in a tight and thrilling race. Rotorua-based ‘Okere Ladies’ crew  Kelly Wood, Nikki Kelly Denise (Buba) Martin, Alana Whiteman, Annie Cairns, Kiwi Olympian Luuka Jones and Nikki Whitehead took out the Women’s category in the Sprint and Head 2 Head. The crew is stacked with former world champions and will be favoured to win gold on home water in 2013, 10 years since their last title at this level.

The Pre-Worlds and National Championships at Labour Weekend are being raced on the same rivers  and in the same INCEPT rafts as the World Championships, next year.

Around 50 crews are expected to travel to New Zealand in November, next year – 30 men’s and 20 women’s teams.

Competition continues in the pre-worlds, tomorrow, Saturday, October 20 with the Slalom in Kawerau on the Tarawera and 300 points for the winner. The finale is the Down River race on the Rangitaiki, on Sunday October 21 with 400 points up for grabs.