Silver in surf lifesavers’ debut race

LUKE Seufert, Hamish McKenzie and Bryn Gault prepare for the big race. Photos supplied

LIFEGUARDS Hamish McKenzie, Luke Seufert and Bryn Gault represented Opotiki at the Bay of Plenty Inflatable Rescue Boat Long Haul Stage Race on Saturday, putting in a top performance to gain a silver medal.

Starting at Ohope Beach in Whakatane, 13 crews competed in five different physically and mentally demanding challenges along the 95 kilometre stretch of coastline to the finishing point at Papamoa Beach.

The Mairangi Bay team took the win, with Opotiki, second, and third placegetter Whakatane finishing within the next four minutes.

The Opotiki open crew beat the mixed Whakatane team by around 30 seconds, showing the competitiveness of the competition in spite of the large distance of the race.

For both Eastern Bay teams, their podium places were even more impressive considering they were both competing in the IRB Long Haul race for the first time, which Surf Life Saving Eastern Region sport manager, Mark Inglis said was an “incredible achievement”.

The race took the teams from Ohope to Matata, Pukehina, Papamoa and Omanu then back to Papamoa.

At each stop they faced challenges, including removing their IRB’s motor and fuel bladder then putting them back on, drinking two litres of flavoured milk before running two kilometres, completing a rescue and filling a vessel with seawater.

Friends and family joined the Opotiki team, helping out with cheers of encouragement and fuel bladders and tools between the race stages.

A surf club spokesperson said: “The boys will be keen to compete again”.

The Whakatane crew also finished as the top mixed crew, followed by Waipu Cove and another Whakatane crew.

Inglis complimented the skill and professionalism of the competitors who took part, saying it was a lot of hard work to even complete the near 100-kilometre race.

“A lot of the details around the challenges, and the race itself, were withheld from the competitors until race day to add to the challenge and the teams handled it very well.

“It was an awesome day of racing along the beautiful Bay of Plenty coastline. We couldn’t have asked for a better day,” he said.

The IRB Long Haul event marks the final sport event of the season, and with the Surf Life Saving New Zealand patrol season also finished, focus now shifts to the awards season where lifeguards are celebrated for their achievements in both lifeguarding and sport.