Top Australian surfski ace Mark Anderson is sizing up this weekend’s FNB Durban Downwind surfski race, determined to make the most of the weather conditions that will define the character of the 26km challenge while at the same time enjoying the company of the local surfski community that has made it easy for him to be a regular visitor to South African shores.
Having last raced back in April at the King of the Habour race in New Zealand, the 38 year-old flyer from Narrabeen, Sydney will look to this weekend’s clash to reignite his competitive spark before he takes on important assignments in Mauritius and Portugal in the coming weeks.
A lack of racing recently and little indication of strong winds blowing this weekend, Anderson has set himself some conservative goals for this weekend.
However, a sixth place effort at last year’s FNB Durban Downwind – behind fellow Australian, Michael Booth and a powerful South African quartet – proves the Fenn Kayaks/Oceanpaddler athlete has what it takes to mix it up at the front and should forecasts improve, may well be a factor again in 2016.
“There doesn’t seem like there will be much wind on the weekend unfortunately but it is what it is, its just one of those uncontrollables that you can’t get too concerned about.
“I’ll get the whip out and give it a crack but I need all the help I can get so if it’s flat then it’ll be hard to match the pace of guys like Hank (McGregor) and company.
“Having not raced since New Zealand, I have absolutely no idea how I’ll go this weekend, especially given the expected conditions. Either way though, it will be good get some miles in the arms before Mauritius and Portugal!”
Having jetted in on Tuesday, 14 June and only departing for Mauritius on Wednesday after this weekend’s clash, Anderson has made a point of making the most of his time in SA, both on and off the water.
“I first came to South Africa in 2008 to race but it was just so easy to make friends that I was back again in 2009 and 2010 before taking a bit of a break and then returning again last year and again now,” explains Anderson.
“I arrived last Tuesday, everything lined up perfectly for me for the Scottburgh to Brighton race on Thursday, I went for a paddle on Monday, did a downwind from DUC to Umhlanga on Tuesday evening and I’ll paddle again today (Wednesday), so its been good!
“I also always try and do some stuff outside Durban while I’m here – last year I went up Sani Pass, in 2010n I spent a few days in Cape Town – and so it was absolutely amazing to head up the North Coast and spend two nights at the Zululand Rhino Reserve this time.
“My friends are why I’m here really; the race is just an excuse to come back and is just a sideshow,” he laughs.
While the majority of the focus will be on the singles racing, Durban’s affinity for doubles racing is likely to draw a healthy S2 field as well, an event that will run concurrently to the S1 clash.
Through the generous support of title sponsors FNB, the first 100 online entrants will receive a complimentary moisture management race garment while R40 000 will be up for grabs across all age and gender categories and all participants stand the chance of claiming one of the various sought-after Thule lucky draws prizes at the event’s prize giving.
Online entries, submitted via www.roag.co.za, close on Wednesday, 22 June with registration taking place at Marine SLC on Friday, 24 June from 17h00-19h00.
The 2016 FNB Durban Downwind takes place on 25 or 26 June, the final race date and venue will be announced on the series’ Facebook page on Thursday, 23 June.