The Nelo Summer Challenge is a race I’ve been wanting to do for a couple of years. It’s only a 10km downwind dash, my preference being 20km, but I’ve heard so much about this race that I was so happy when the dates this year fell onto a weekend I could get off from work. Also being after the Olympics it was going to be very competitive!
Michele Eray, good friend and great paddler, stayed with me for the two weeks leading up to the race. So I could not have had a better training partner leading up to this race. Also she showed me some good new recipes in the kitchen!! Thanks Mich
We arrived in Porto on the Thursday at lunch time to be met at the airport by one of Nelo’s drivers (Victor) and he took us to our hotel. He said to me that there was a downwind at about 4pm and he will be back at 3pm to pick us up. Awesome, just enough time to unpack and grab some lunch, then it’s down to the beach. The wind was pumping, I was excited to get out on the water, but there were a few paddlers who were slightly nervous about going out there. The waves were crashing over the harbour wall, which to me was perfect . We had an awesome downwind, I had jumped into a Nelo for the first time ever and was not as stable as I would like to be out there – but I had so much fun. The shore dump was pretty nasty, that’s when I got a bit nervous – but I made it without any drama!!
Dinners were at our Hotel and all the athlete’s were eating together, this really made for a good atmosphere with stories flying around the table! Especially after the hectic downwind.
On Friday morning I went to set my boat up and the wind was blowing in the wrong direction……Andre (race organizer) reassured me that this happens everyday and that by 2pm’ish it will swing and there will be a perfect downwind, and he was right!! So now we are all hoping for the same to happen on race day.
RACE DAY: Race time will be at 16:00 or 17:00, briefing at 14:30 to confirm. So I went down nice and early to check my ski and just chill under the Nelo tents on their bean bags. It soon started to buzz around the arena and everyone was discussing the wind, or the lack there of, but just as Andre had said the day before at about lunch time is swung around and picked up from the perfect direction – game on. Briefing was soon upon us and race was to start at 17:00 so we could wait for as much wind as possible.
The start was chaos, everyone was on edge. It was fast and furious, and I gave it my all to the turn buoy - hoping that I could rest on some runs downwind to catch my breath! I did catch my breath as we turned downwind but not for long – I had decided that I must not have anything left at the end of this race. I concentrated on catching and linking as many runs as possible and paddled so hard I could hardly breathe at times. This was one hard fast race. I was dicing with a Portuguese girl for the last few km’s and as we turned the final turn buoy we had to paddle with a side wind/chop for the last 1km, the hardest 1km I think I’ve ever done – she was better than me in the side chop and she hit the beach about 15seconds ahead of me, I ran as hard as I could up the beach and realized that I had given this race my all. I finished in 5th place and I am so happy with that result.
Top 10 Women; Michele Eray took 1st, Teneale Hatton 2nd, Beatrice Gomes 3rd, Sara Rafeal 4th, Chloe Bunnett 5th, Bridgitte Hartley 6th, Mira Larsen 7th, Sofia Coelho 8th, Rachel Cawthorn 9th and Krisztina Fazekas 10th.
The mens race was tight with Jasper Mocke 1st, Dawid Mocke 2nd and Sean Rice 3rd.
After the race we had a party of all parties, Nelo know how to organize a race but they are also do damn good parties.
The next day we had a sprint knock out tournament, not my strong point, but so much fun
Start of the final in the Sprint knock out. Just over 2mins of pure burn!!
This race is a must, the organisation of it and the way we were looked after was incredible. I am not sure when Andre sleeps as he was the first on the beach every morning and the last man standing every night! Thanks to Andre, Marisa and their team for a great time in Portugal!!
Thanks Marisa for arranging our transport and driver back to the airport – see you next year
Great little treat with a coffee!!
Next up is the Ohana Mana Cup in Sardinia – Italy at the end of the month.