Twelve teams will be tested with physically and mentally demanding challenges this weekend as they take on the annual Bay of Plenty IRB Long Haul race from Ohope Beach to Mount Maunganui.
Now in its fourth year, the event tests Surf Lifeguards' ability to respond to a callout or rescue by quickly setting up the Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) and heading out onto the water.
Surf Life saving New Zealand Sport Manager Mark Inglis says the event isn't for the faint hearted and the teams will need to be prepared for anything.
"A lot of the details around the challenges, and the race itself, have been withheld from the competitors and will only be released on race day to the further mimic a real-life situation," he says.
This year, the race format has been changed to create a stage race to allow for closer racing. It will be set over five stages, where all teams will start together and race side-by-side to the next destination where they will complete the stage challenge.
Crews will have 10 minutes to recover before the next mass start sets them on their way to the next stage.
Mr Inglis says at each of the five stages, crews may be required to assemble and break down their equipment, perform rescues and carry out a number of other challenging exercises.
The race usually takes around three to four hours, depending on the conditions.
"This is always an exhilarating event which keeps growing in size each year. This year we have a total of 12 teams entered, which is three more than last year. Because of the larger number of entries, we have split the races into two categories; Open and Under 21," he says.
Papamoa has the highest number of entries with four crews across both age categories, including last year's winners Kirby Wheeler and Mitchel Brady who are favourites to take out the title once again.
Neighbouring clubs Mount Maunganui and Omanu each have two crews entered. Last year's third place-getters Mairangi Bay are back with one crew and Red Beach also has one crew entered along with Tairua and Whiritoa.
Racing begins at Ohope Beach at 11am and crews are expected at the Matata, Pukehina, Papamoa and Omanu stages every half hour through to around 1.30pm for the final stage at Mount Maunganui.
For more information, visit /calendar/2016/may/2016-irb-long-haul/
Lisa Smith, Media & Communications Specialist,
Phone 09 303 9335 or 0276 488 823