82 Sea kayakers lined up on Saturday 24th August for the start of the 4th Oban Sea Kayak Race.
The race has been growing every year since it began in 2009 and has now become part of some sea kayakers racing calendar. Paddlers come from all corners of the UK to take part.
But this is not just a sea kayak race, a great deal of money is raised each year, around £4,500 since 2009 – for Oban Lifeboat.
Once again the event was hosted by the Kilbowie outdoor centre just outside of Oban. Around 40 paddlers had set up camp at the centre on Friday night and were expected to stay for the whole weekend.
By early morning the registration desk was being manned by the cheery face of Councillor Fred Hall. Every year he does his bit to make the race go smoothly, with every competitor having his or her number and registration form.
The driving force of the race is Gus Brydon who owns Argyll Kitchen Design in Combie Street, Oban. He’s the towns original sharply dressed man. If you live or work in or around Oban you’ll certainly know Gus, mainly from his appearance – he comes suited and booted for every occasion.
This year the race had simplified its competition categories.
- Tourers, Racers, Doubles and a couple of teams.
- There were 3 sub categories: Clown, Stick and Plastic-will be explained later!
The race starts and finishes in Oban bay and takes a course of some 20km around the island of Kerrera.
With the weather set fair and the promise of light winds all day the race was due for some record breaking times. The course record of 1 hour 55mins was certainly open to being smashed…
…and with the last minute entry of the 5 times world marathon racing champion, Ivan Lawler, that was definitely on the cards.
Lawler is a legend. A marathon canoeist, he competed from the late 1980s to the late 1990s. Amongst other victories, he won no fewer than five gold and two silver medals at the canoe marathon world championships.
At one point during the race, aboard Struan and Cameron Smith’s Coastal Connection RIB, we were easing along at a decent 6 knots – when Lawler passed us. He was paddling not a kayak but what is called s ‘ski’. Easy to see why from the photograph above.
With everyone’s sea kayaks scrutinised and paperwork checked, the paddlers started to make their way down the slip and onto the water.
Entering Oban Bay the racers took a tour around the cruise liner and along the waterfront, mustering on the beach under the towns main shopfronts.
This year the main racers with the ultra fast kayaks would start 20 mins later than the bulk of the paddlers.
At 1pm the Oban Lifeboat klaxon sounded and the race started. A sea of colour sprinted out of the bay and headed down the Sound of Kerrera.
Towards the southern end of the island, the field had spread out but some fierce battles for position were taking place.
Even the race organiser himself, Gus Brydon, manages to take part. [2nd photo above]
There were some strange looking doubles on the water.
Heading around Bach island and up the west coast of Kerrera the elite racers began to move through the field.
Initially Calum Urquhart, last year’s winner was doing battle with Ivan Lawler but as they paddled north, Lawler pulled away.
The field of 82 were now spread from Bach island to Oban Bay but, as predicted, Ivan Lawler crossed the finish line kin first place – with a record time of 01:41:33.
He was closely followed by last years winner Calum Urquhart with a time of 01:44:24, beating his previous best by more than 10 minutes.
In third place was another past competitor, Kenny Fraser with a time of 01:45:00. He took 17 minutes off his 2012 time.
Top 2 women racers
Natalie Maderova with a time of 02:23:31
Gill Barnsley (Oban paddler) with a time of 02:25:07
Alistair Hornsby/ Kevin Locke with a time of 01:50:31
Michael Yeoman’s/ Morgan Serpell with a time of 02:02:01
Douglas Hardie? Ione Russell with a time of 02:05:07
Nick Cresser 01:50:33
Patrick Winterton (Oban Paddler) 02:02:02
Lee Royle 02:03:33
Kate Duffus 02:03:55
Kathyn Mcdowell 02:10:32
Roswitha Wagenknecht 02:13:45
The first plastic sea kayak to finish was Alan McBurney 02:23:21
The only paddler dressed as a clown was Adam Richards (Oban Paddler) works at Kilbowie outdoor centre with a time of 02:20:36
The first paddler to be using a stick (Greenland style shaped piece of wood) had a time of 02:20:42
For the full list of places and categories go to the race website here.
Julian Penney’s business is Sea Kayaking Scotland
The photographs above are by Julian Penney with the exception of photographs 3 [Ivan Lawler] and 7 [the two red canoes paddling it out off Kerrera]. These are © Stephen Lawson and are reproduced here with permission.