New faces, new venue for surf boat series

Friday, 2 December 2011

The first round of the national surf boat series will be held at Paekakariki Beach tomorrow and, like the new venue, the competition in the open men's division will be wide open.

The Wellington round has typically been held at Titahi Bay and in Wellington Harbour but the move to Paekakariki for the first time will expose the 42 crews to a few more elements as they hunt aery season success.

While defending national champions Mairangi Bay loom as warm favourites in the open women division, the open men's ranks have never been so wide open.

Two of national champion Piha's five-strong crew have retired, with Craig Knox and Bruce O'Brien replaced by Chris Morris and Scott Lissington, although the Mark Bourneville-swept crew will again be strong.

The decade-long dominance of Titahi Bay has been diluted as well, with only Dean Ellis and Tim Marsden returning from the crew that won the national series last year and represented New Zealand at the International  Challenge in Mount Maunganui.

South Island crews from New Brighton, North Beach and Rarangi will also head north for the series start, joining the likes of Lyall Bay, Mairangi Bay, Orewa, Paekakariki and Westshore.

Mairangi Bay's top women's crew were near unbeatable at the national championships last season and the Rob Jones-swept crew of Nina Reid, Carmel and Erin Tolhurst and Sarah Woolley should again be hard to topple.

Mount Maunganui are also rebuilding with a young crew, Titahi Bay's ladies are always tough to beat in the Wellington round and there's also interest in a team from the Palmerston North Surf Club from Himatangi Beach.

All up, there are 13 open women's crews competing.  Six crews will contest the under-23 men's division and a further six will line up in the under-21 women's grade, while there are also increased numbers in the under-19 division.

Racing will start at 10.30am tomorrow.