New Zealand currently holds the top international IRB racing title, and this weekend Surf Life Saving club teams from throughout the country will battle to find our top Inflatable Rescue Boat racing teams.
In November a Surf Life Saving New Zealand team from Port Waikato’s Sunset Beach Lifeguard Service raced at the Lifesaving World Championships in Adelaide, claiming the inaugural gold medal for the emerging sport of Inflatable Rescue Boat racing.
The sport is rooted in surf lifesaving, and the boats are one of the most-frequently used tools in beach rescues in New Zealand, says event organiser Scott Bicknell.
It is also a thrilling sport to watch – with the boats heading off from the beach at speed, through breaking waves, and the crew working in unison to balance the craft through steep turns and leaps off the backs of waves.
This Saturday and Sunday 310 athletes will be racing over the waves in the national championships at Waikouaiti Beach, north of Dunedin.
The competition has a history of hard, fast and action-packed racing, and organisers are expecting no less this weekend, Bicknell says.
Sunset Beach Lifeguard Service, who sent the 8-strong Kiwi team for the world champs, are the club to beat. They are the current title holders and are sending the biggest contingent for the competition, but Dunedin’s St Kilda SLSC have the second largest number of athletes, and will be fighting fiercely, Bicknell says.
The Sunset Beach club also took home both the North Island and South Island IRB Championships titles earlier this year, with St Kilda SLSC and St Clair SLSC hot on their heels in the south, and Mairangi Bay SLSC and Waikanae Beach SLSC second and third in the north.
“Sunset Beach are always the team to watch. But St Kilda gave them a good run for their money at the South Island Championships in March, winning for a portion of the event.”, Bicknell says.
“There are a few notable teams scattered amongst a range of clubs, so it will make for some very interesting racing.
“And with such a high number of entries this year it will be interesting to see whether the additional clubs take up some of the minor placings and soak up some of the club points, which could have an influence on which club takes the overall title.”
Saturday’s racing will be the assembly rescue, mass rescue and teams race heats, then on Sunday lifeguards will be competing in the tube title, singles racing, and teams finals.
SLSNZ Media Team
Phone 021 137 0238