Michael Booth Hits Hong Kong

on Dec 06 in Races, Racing, Think, Uno by

After dramas trying to get an emergency passport on Wednesday getting to Hong Kong was more a relief than anything. I had been looking forward to the race after suffering from a stress fracture and then cracking my tibia in the Nutri-Grain Ironman trial. It had been a long 3 months without being able to do a hell of a lot.


Getting to Hong Kong on Thursday night it didn’t give me much time to look around. Went to one of the paddler’s favourite cafés called the Pacific Coffee Company, which had food, coffee and internet. What more do you need? Had a shop down at the Stanley market that basically has all the clothes and knick-knacks you would want all for a “good price for you”.


With the Dubai race being cancelled the Dragon run looked to have one of the strongest international fields this year with many quality paddlers arriving from Australia and South Africa. With guys like Shannon Eckstein, Jeremy Cotter, Cory Hill, the Mocke brothers and Sean Rice I knew getting top ten would be no easy feat.


The report on wind guru going into the race wasn’t promising with a max of 6 knots coming from the northeast, which didn’t look quite like the Dragon run I had experienced a year earlier with large swell and runs. I paddled the Think Uno Elite, which is my preferred Think ski at this time.


Bill and the guys from the Sea School always run an efficient and professional race. The race briefing is on the Friday night with race packs, sponsor logos and a feed of pizza, pasta and salad. On the morning of the race, boats are loaded onto trucks and competitors onto buses. We are then driven to the start line approximately 2 hours before race start. The bus trip is really good with competitors allowed to talk ham, contemplate bus crashes or think about the pain they are going to endure on the 23.5km course back to Stanly Sea School.


The race start was delayed almost an hour with race directors looking to milk as much of the light Northerly wind as they could. The race started from Clearwater Bay Beach at 11am with a couple of the top guys missing the start as the gun went basically straight after the 5min warning. I was fortunate enough to be already on the line and got a cracker start next to Sean Rice and got in a good V-wash in the pack out to Steep Island (which is 3km from the start), where the pack began to split.


While heading to Ninepins (7km out) the backwash off the Islands started to mix up the pack and the wash pack quickly diminished. After turning from 9 Pins Tom, Jasper and Jeremy took the outer line. They were chasing the small 1ft runners over the right shoulder pushing them out to sea. Tim, Hank and Dawid took a straighter line course to the “Kissing Whales” (which is 18km into the race and turning point into Stanley beach and the finish) with Ben, Sean and Shannon taking the inner line.


I turned 9 pins in about 10th with Cory Hill, David Rhodes and Grant hot on my heels. Cory slowly passed and went away from me on the same line as Tim (but obviously a bit further back) but I was able to hold off the other two and catch up to Jeremy and pass Sean down the 11km downwind stretch.


Coming into the last 5km was 9th and in this section all runners diminished and it was time to grind away. I looked forward and everyone was extremely close. I tried to work with Jeremy to keep Sean at bay and tried to catch Ben but their flat water prowess showed in the conditions. Sean passed and dropped me with about 1km to go from the finish. Jeremy, who I train with at home, took a little tactical line on the inside in fear that Jody Zerbst from back home would pay him out for me getting one up on him (it was a bit of a laugh after the race). I was able to pass Shannon who was clearly cramping and hurting toward the end of the race after having to work extra hard at the start after missing the gun.


I was extremely happy with tenth place, being so close to a lot of guys that I had never really thought I could be competitive with. The race lived up to my expectations with 4th to 10th within 1min of each other. Next time I get to race such a field hopefully I will be more within the mix rather than toward the back of the top paddlers.


The race as I said before always runs smoothly with a couple of kids from the sea school picking up our boats and carrying them back up to the racks. There is a post race feed and drinks that leads onto the presentation and into Central Hong Kong at Wagyu. Unfortunately couldn’t make it to that this year as it was my Girlfriends 21st the next day. But needless to say I experienced enough of Hong Kong the year before!


I’ve been to the Dragon Run twice now and will hopefully be able to make it back next year. I am thrilled to have met Bruce, Daryl and Stewart from Think with their professionalism and support allowing the trip to go smoothly.


Michael Booth