2021 Ultra Marathon Series

Now in its third year, the 2021 Ultra Series challenges paddlers to go further than the traditional marathon distance. This series takes in some of the state’s most stunning waterways and includes a number of races that continue through twilight into the night.

  • Race 1 - Wyong Ultra, Saturday 4th September. Choice of 30kms or 17kms
  • Race 2 - Myall Classic, Saturday 11th September. Choice of 47kms, 24kms or 12kms
  • Race 3 - Morison 50, Saturday 25th September. Choice of 50km, 24kms or 12kms
  • Race 4 - Clarence 100, Friday 8th – Sunday 10th October. 100kms over three days, with relay and single-stage options
  • Race 5 - Hawkesbury Canoe Classic, Saturday 30th – Sunday 31st October. Choice of 111kms, 65kms or a three-stage relay
  • Race 6 - Burley Griffin 24hr Paddle Challenge, December TBC. 24hrs or 16hrs, with solo and relay options

Riverland Paddling Marathon 12-14 June 2021

Hosted by the Marathon Canoe Club of SA since 1988 the Riverland Paddling Marathon (RPM) is not just a marathon it is a festival of paddling marathons with 6 possible events over 3 days on 1 weekend in the chilly month of June each year.

Every June long weekend paddlers from all over the country gather on the Murray River in South Australia’s beautiful Riverland to meet, greet and most importantly to paddle. In 2021 - some 13 LCRKers made the trek to Adelaide, braving colonial border crossings and a lucky break (for SA and NSW anyway) in the covid epidemic. David Little crewed for the K4 team and takes up the tale:

Land Crewing the K4 – A mahogany tale
Story: Able Crewman Dave Little – June 2021 Photos: Dave Little and Carolyn J Cooper

When Pauline told me that she had been invited to join Tony, Alanna and Naomi in the K4 for a crack at the RPM200 she was both excited and tentative. Excited, because she had always wanted to paddle on the mighty Murray AND she would get to do it with her K4 teammates. Tentative because apart from a 111km Hawkesbury, the Morrison 50 and a handful of short-course ultras, she had not undertaken anything which called for back-to-back paddles of 76, 69 and 63 kms. In the end, excitement won!

I offered to be land crew for the team and we immediately set to work on the logistics of supporting the crew on their journey to RPM glory.

My ‘Cruiser had been set up for our recent 7,000km outback road trip, so it would be a good platform to use as a support vehicle with fridge, drawer system, lighting and adequate space for gear. Tony and Alanna towed the mighty K4 behind their Volvo on a massive mobile scaffold otherwise known as a boat trailer.

Above: The support vehicles on a misty morning

Each team member had their own coloured tub as their daily ‘race kit’ as well as Naomi supplied ABC ‘Classic Flow’ chaff bags for rapid deployment of specific items.

There was a never-ending stream of messages on the team chat group on accommodation, border permits, wardrobe, weather, more wardrobe. roasted black soya beans, and Tony choosing to wear a T-Shirt in temperatures approaching zero whilst sitting in a lock.

An interesting subset to this were discussions about how to deal with all the wet gear each day. There were thoughts on electric clothes dryers (yes, you read that correctly), electric column heaters, fan heaters, ceramic furnace heaters and multiple styles of clothes drying racks. I was thinking at this stage of setting up a mobile industrial laundry in a box trailer to cater for the daily stream of wet paddling gear! As it was, the bathroom in our Air B&B resembled a Victorian laundry house…

Above:View of the bathroom at our house…

For those of you who read my poem 'A View from the Shore', I made jest of the team consuming a Vindaloo the night before the race and the gaseous consequences that might result the next morning. In a clear display of life imitating art (or my middle name is Nostradamus), Tony decided that he would like a curry for dinner on the night before the race. What’s more, his dish of choice was Beef Vindaloo! Thankfully (as far as I’m aware), there was little consequence the next day.

Above: The team arms themselves with a stout curry the night before Day 1

Day 1 and it begins! The K4 is taken out of its sock and prepped for the day. The boat is on the water and the crew are in the boat, spray decks in place, drink systems tested, and lining up for the start. I can feel from the crew a mix of quiet anticipation and the desire to get going and chase down the boats who were seeded to the earlier starts. A blast from the air horn and they’re off! Not a max effort marathon start, but an easy lumber to get 36 feet of mahogany up to speed. There’s plenty of time. Today is 76 kilometres, so there’s a long way to go.

I packed my gear into the car and set off for Checkpoint 1 Lock 4 which was the first of the 3 locks to be traversed. At the lock I noticed Tom Simmat who is a repeat offender in the RPM. Tom makes a beeline for a service ladder to hold on to, obviously something he does at every RPM. More interesting though was as the lock emptied and more rungs were exposed, Tom feverishly cleaned each rung as it emerged from the murky depths. Hopefully SA Water pays Tom for this annual service!

Above: Tom in a Lock giving the ladder rungs their annual clean (inset: detailed scrutiny)

After giving the team their morning hot noodles and Tony’s Espresso hit, the rest of the day was spent tracking down the river to CP2 at Loxton, CP3 on the slippery banks of New Residence, then to the finish at Moorook. The team noodles and Tony’s Espresso became a daily routine which provided a constant in a race that would throw up the challenges of weather, river conditions, hydration and nutrition. I began keeping a log of individual hydration stats which of course degenerated into a competition between the 4 crew members. Naomi was the winner over the 3 days in terms of consuming the allocated amount!

Above: Some of the LCRK gang in Lock 2

Day 2 was the test of being able to back up from the day before. The landscape was inspiring, and I continually saw photo opportunities as I made my way down the river.

Above: Wachtels Lagoon at sunrise

Checkpoint 1 Lock 3 presented us with a pontoon long enough for the K4 and the Quad Skull which parked on the opposite side. CP 1 was uneventful and had the usual feeding and toilet breaks. Devlin Pound was the next checkpoint. At the end of a short winding dirt road we were presented with a pleasant grassy bank overlooking a nice wide section of river. The sun was out, and it was a nice day, but I knew the 200km crews would likely be feeling the pinch by now.

Next was a quick trip to the Waikerie ferry, double back to Lowbank to check on the team and back to Waikerie for Day 2 finish. This had been a tough day and a well-deserved rest was in order before the final assault of Day 3, which would be an early start.

Above: A cold and dark start on day 3 (Photo Carolyn J Cooper)

Above: Dawn on day 3 pre-start

Day 3 and the takeaway for Pauline from the previous two days was hydration. Checkpoint 1 (Lock 2) presented the challenge of a steep slippery bank for those who needed to exit the boat for a restroom break. Unfortunately, on re-entering the boat, Captain Tony looked to have reopened an old crack in the hull which could ultimately have ended the campaign. We quickly hauled the boat out, repaired the crack with trusty Nashua gaffer tape and moved the boat to a pontoon just big enough to take the rear of the boat and cockpit #4. Tony gingerly entered the boat and the K4 snuck into the lock just before the gates shut.

The main concern now was would the repair hold, as there was still 43km to the finish. Checkpoint 2 at Cadell was too far away, so I hightailed it to the ferry at Cadell and back to Caudo Vineyard which had its own beach and is the start point for Day 3 of the Murray 100. As it transpired, the K4 came in for a quick break and repair inspection. More tape was applied, and they were off to CP2 18km downriver.

Above: Coming into Caudo (Photo Carolyn J Cooper)

As I waited a t CP 2, I was anxiously looking at the K4’s progress on the tracker. Yes, they’re still moving well, they’ve got this! One last stop, an Espresso pick-me-up for Tony and they were off for the final 12km! One of the SA paddlers spied me walking with a mug down to the parked K4. “You’re spoiling Tony with that Chicken Soup” says Mark. “It’s Espresso” I replied! “What! How much do we have to pay to get that service!” was the incredulous reply!

I barely had time to pack the gear back into the car, jump onto the ferry and get to the finish at Morgan. Table set up, goodies to feast on then run to the finish line in time to take some photos and ring the team in with the cowbell. I’m used to hearing cowbells in trail ultras, so I thought I might bring the distinctive sound to the RPM as I travelled down the river!

So, the end of RPM 2021. The Lane Cove K4 has travelled the Murray again after a very long break and a hell of a journey. As for the crew, what an effort, especially considering the truncated training schedule in the leadup to the race. The crew learnt about each other and learnt about themselves, having to dig deep during tough periods.

Above: Job done, Woohoo! (Photo Carolyn J Cooper)

The result was an 18:55 aggregate time. There will be faster times, there will be slower times, but this was our time and it was good enough for fastest full-distance boat for 2021. Well done team!

It was also good to see our LCRK teammates, lending a hand where they could, and doing so well in their individual events. Craig, Richard, Duncan and Keg taking out the 200km Doubles Relay, and doing it whilst trash-talking all the way down the river! Tom for gutsing it through another RPM in yet another configuration of boat. Anjie and Dave, another good finish. This is bread and butter stuff for Anjie, being short course and all… Matt for gaining the admiration of the ladies in the Quad Skull by capsizing his boat in freezing conditions on the start line whilst stuffing around with his Garmin, then proceeding to swim his boat to shore and re-join the race at the next checkpoint. As Matt was swimming to shore, teammate Wade had already ducked into a nearby phone booth, donned his Superman cape and PFD and started the first leg of the relay. Incidentally, the Nemo award definitely goes to Matt, as he once more gracefully dove into the freezing water on day three, this time from stopping to eat!

Above: Matt pressing Start on his Garmin Matt eating lunch…

It was great to land crew for the three days. It was great to experience the RPM for the first time, and I can understand the allure that brings paddlers back year after year. So, until next time, this is Able Crewman Dave signing off.

Above: Post-race, the LCRK RPM Class of 2021

Story: Able Crewman Dave Little – June 2021 Photos: Dave Little and Carolyn J Cooper

K4 coming up to the Lock Day 1 - photo: RPM