It was decided at WRC 2016 that it was time to rework the H2H. Although one of the most popular disciplines amongst the spectators, generally everyone felt that very few courses produced an interesting clash all the way to the finish line. More than 90% of races were won by the first bottleneck on the river, meaning the rest of the race was a bit ho-hum boring.
So a “think-tank” group was formed and began tussling with this problem. World Rafting Cup Guilin, China 2017 was the first test!
Not only did we hold the H2H with two upstream gates, but we also had the rafts start pointing upstream. This start was tried at WC China last year and proved very successful. I did not see how it worked at the start as I was at the gates, so I’ll give you my impressions from there.
In the test runs it could immediately be seen that very unusual and new tactics as far as negotiating the upstream gates would give unexpected results, very different to the H2H we are used to.
The first solution worked out by the NZL-OM2 team was to wait for the other team to choose the gate and then “expel” them from the gate. The tactics were accepted by everyone, so we could see it as the most common solution, but not the one that was always achieved during the race. For the rest of the race, a great H2H fight could be seen, because in this way the team that was generally faster was thrown out by this tactic, but then had to fight back against a slower team all the way to the end of the race.
Another solution can be seen in the video, you can see Hungarian and Russian OW waiting until the last moment, falsely pointing to one gate, and then attacking the other … and so on. This results in it all being a far more tactical H2H than usual.
At the captain’s meeting that evening, all the advantages and disadvantages were discussed. Many good proposals were taken in. New H2H guidelines have been written so race organisers can start testing them over the next few months. It will be tested at Pre-Worlds and a few national event organisers have already agreed to test it out.
We hope to have a test showcase of it at WRC Japan 2017 (no panic, just a test, the old H2H remains).
There WILL be a change in H2H by the next Race Rules update (March 2018), that is guaranteed. So let’s all work on it to be something that the vast majority will accept and in which competitors, who are most important, will enjoy it just like the audiences do. So be active in this and get testing and let us know what works and what doesn’t!