In the event you’ve been under a rock all January, you might’ve missed the fact that a couple of our BOCC stars made the trip over to Perth to compete in the Nelo Fenn Doctor last month.

This race should be on every competitive solo paddler’s bucket list. The conditions and competition are world class. As well as this, it’s a great opportunity for us Eastern seaboard dwellers to pop over and explore the West, for a change.

So who are the BOCC stars we are talking about, exactly? In the ski category there was Danny Topfer, Brad Hagan, John Sayers (Sayo), Tim Fitzsimmons and Brad Russell. In the OC1 category there was Robyn Saultry.

The start of the Nelo Fenn Doctor. Photo courtesy of Robyn Saultry

The start of the Nelo Fenn Doctor 2014, Rottnest Island, WA. Photo courtesy of Robyn Saultry

Basic Stats:

Race – THE DOCTOR, Saturday January 18, 2014
Stats – 27.5km downwind from Rottnest Island to Sorrento Beach, Perth. 328 entrants (22 females, 306 males, 6 OC1’s, 46 SUP’s and 276 ski’s/ocean kayaks/plastics)
Conditions – 15 to 25knots from SSW, swell from the West with about 2 to 3ft wind chop. Course ran in a NE direction, presenting quite technical conditions.
Line Honours – Jasper Mocke (South Africa) Open Men Ski 1:39:02, Ruth Highman (WA, Australia) Open Women Ski 2:01:29 [full results]

The Race:

If you’re thinking about doing this race next year, the advice from Danny is to book your logistics early. “Some ski manufacturers don’t support this race [and] there are very few OC’s over there as well,” he says. Specifically the big sponsors for the event, with joint naming rights, are Nelo and Fenn. If your preferred craft falls out of this scope then take heed of the advice.

For the BOCC contingency their campaign began on the Thursday before the Doctor where some used the local circuit series as a warm-up for the big event on the Saturday.

Here’s a blow-by-blow account of both races kindly shared by Robyn. Robyn also won the OC1 category (for both male and female entrants) in a time of 2:25:55 coming in ahead exactly 1min 30sec of second place getter Hope Grunfeld (Maroochydore).

The Recount by Robyn Saultry:

We (Danny, Brad Russell, Sayo and I) arrived in Perth on Thursday (Jan 16) at 2.45pm local time.

Danny, Brad R and Sayo at Perth airport. Photo courtesy of Robyn Saultry.

Danny, Brad R and Sayo at Perth airport. Photo courtesy of Robyn Saultry.

We were on a tight schedule to pick up the hire car and then Sayo’s rental ski before making our way, for a 5pm start, to compete in the last race of the Sunset Ocean Series. This was a 12km course from Port Beach to City Beach and would be our warm-up event before the Doctor on Saturday.

First, we juggled loading the hire ski onto ‘soft racks’ on the car before we made our way to the race start where we were to collect the rest of our crafts. It was a mad scramble as we rushed to get ourselves on the water, leaving the hire car looking like a bomb site.

By 5pm, the winds were blowing up to 20 to 25knots; the ocean was full of white caps and kite surfers.

There was talk of a nasty shore break that would have to be negotiated at the finish so some competitors chose not to race. Unfortunately, that group was all the other outrigger paddlers so I started with the stand-up paddlers, 10mins ahead of the rest of the field.

This race dealt out some strong conditions to road test my ama that was being held together by tape and glue.

The course ran along the coastline so it was hard to get lost but in saying that I didn’t really know the exact landmark to head towards. When the first ski paddler went past me at 27 odd minutes I was glad to have a guide to follow.

As I approached the turn can to line up the beach finish, it was obvious that duo pro electronic cigarette it was going to be a very tricky journey to the shore. I decided not to rush it and sat out letting a few skis go by, while I worked out the sets. Pretty soon I got in behind a wave and paddled like crazy to the beach, where Danny grabbed my canoe whilst I ran up the finish shoot to finish.

As predicted before the start, the finish was carnage with paddlers snapping crafts and coming in sideways. If you want a look at the ‘blood bath’, you can visit Race 3 – Sunset Surfski Series.

Friday was a get-organised-for-the-big-race day. I was up early for a swim and coffee with the boys, then off to load our crafts on a barge to get them to Rottnest Island for the start.

Saturday morning came and we were off to the ferry early for our trip to the island. The barge unloaded all 300 odd craft and then it was a matter of finding a spot in the shade whilst we waited and waited then waited a bit more for the wind to turn direction and get up.

The waiting game. Ian Rambo interviewing before the race start. Photo courtesy of Robyn Saultry.

The waiting game. Ian Rambo doing interviews before the race start. Photo courtesy of Robyn Saultry.

This was all expected as competitors were briefed that the race start would be any time from 10am onwards, which meant that everyone just had to sit and wait for the final call.

Finally the start time was set at 1pm for Stand-Up’s, 1:40pm for OC1’s, plastic kayaks and women’s; and 1:50pm for all other skis.

It was a quick 1500m to the first turn at a channel marker off Rottnest then into the weedy waves across to a channel marker 3km off Cottesloe Beach, which proved not easy to find for some.

I had five OC1’s to race against – one girl from Maroochydore, Hope Grunfeld, and four guys from WA.

I could see one guy to my left for a long time until we came across a tug pulling a crane. I had to decide to go left or right of it. Danny had long passed me so I couldn’t follow his line and there were minutes to be made or lost with this decision: left would mean having to cut back to the marker, right would take me maybe a little too far South but would put me on a better line with the runners. I chose right.

I had Hope on my left shoulder. She was quite nervous about this race due to the large waves, strong wind and large fish that we may encounter. I didn’t underestimate this very fit younger paddler and when we turned the channel marker with 7km to go I upped the pace to try and secure the win.

Again, I had no confidence in finding the exact stop on the beach where the finish was. But I had a rough idea and surfed the best runs to find a large crowd at Sorrento Surf Club creating a great finish up the beach.

Danny was again waiting for me to grab my canoe and this time there was no nasty shore break. From there, I was straight in but first had to try and find some legs to be able to run up the beach.

It was a great feeling to have such a good result. My smile was genuine and the hugs were emotional. Hope was the next OC1 to come in, about 2min back, and then the guys! I was so happy for her too – great racing and fantastic conditions.

The boys I travelled over with, all had their stories; Danny finished a fantastic 9th in his division (1:53:04) and exactly 30 minutes ahead of me.

Afterwards, we went to presentations and fell into bed. Sunday was a long lunch. For those that drank, they had a few cold ones, shared all the post-race stories, laughed and smiled.

For pictures of the event you can visit Rambo’s coverage of The Doctor.