WINTER Sunday mornings on the water may seem like an age ago but months of preparation will come to the fore this weekend when kayakers from Armidale compete in the gruelling Hawkesbury Canoe Classic, a 111km overnight paddle from Windsor to Brooklyn Bridge.
Twenty one paddlers from The Armidale School, PLC Armidale and New England Girls’ School have spent months preparing for the 37th annual event, in which TAS has competed for 35 years.
The team comprises a mix of entries, from schoolmates paddling as pairs, to singles, and mother-son, father-son and father-daughter combinations.
Paddlers will take to the water from 4.30pm, with the first team members expected to cross the line 13 hours later.
Along the way, competitors pass 20 checkpoints including three pit stops for food and refreshments.
This year, 469 paddlers in 317 craft have entered the event, which is a major fundraiser for the Arrow Bone Marrow Foundation.
“The Hawkesbury has become an icon of physical and mental endurance at TAS, and to ‘climb that mountain’ is a milestone in school life,” said TAS Headmaster Murray Guest, who has paddled the Classic on eight occasions.
“At the same time, the Hawkesbury is very much a team event and equal accolades are deserved by the landcrew and organisers who will stay up through the night to offer support to the paddlers out in the dark.”
The Armidale schools are the only schools to compete. Training has been conducted every Sunday since the July holidays at Malpas Dam and paddlers have completed overnight journeys on the Clarence River and the Myall Lakes Classic in preparation for the event.
Paddlers will be supported by a similar number of landcrew.
Over the decades, TAS has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the cause, and this year’s contingent has already raised nearly $20,000.
This is expected to be boosted to around $35,000 thanks to a co-contribution from the Macquarie Bank Foundation in support of their staff member and TAS Old Boy Duncan McDonald, whose family is paddling in the event, Duncan with son Lachie and his wife Fiona with son Jock.