It’s double trouble as surf lifesaving legends, ironman Guy Leech and ironwoman Candice Warner, team up on a double ski for this Sunday’s Manly Wharf Bridge to Beach, the opening round of the Shaw and Partners Australian Ocean Racing Series.
Amongst a field of 500 paddlers from beginner to elite level paddling single skis, canoes, SUPS and paddleboards, Leechy and Candice will compete in a Fenn Elite double ski in Australia’s largest paddling race on their hometown harbour.
They’ve set a goal of under 40 minutes to complete the 11km dash from Sydney Harbour Bridge to Manly Wharf, plus have a lot of fun in what’s sure to be a hectic Sunday morning hit-out.
“Well our number one priority is fun, which it never used to be, it was always winning,” said Manly’s Guy Leech, who was one of the ironman greats of the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, winning the prestigious Coolangatta Gold in 1984, 85 and 89 and Hawaii’s Molokai paddling enduro in 1994.
“Candice is a great competitor, always has been. She’s super strong, and she’s a goer and I look forward to paddling with her. We’ll beat most of the field, not all of them, but most of them and we’ll do it with a smile on our face.
“We have to work out the paddling order. I think I should be in the front. I’ll take the steering wheel and Candice can be the powerhouse. She’s younger than me!” joked Leechy, who still trains daily and paddles on the northern beaches a few times a week.
Leechy and Candice have never paddled together before, but have shared many a beach in surf carnivals and know the rigours of competition.
“We should be right. We both know how to paddle, and how to compete. We’ll have a quick lap around the bay on our way to the start line to get in sync. It’s just about having a go and enjoying it,” said Candice who paddles three time a week with a Sydney squad, as well as incorporating boxing, running and gym work in her training.
“I’ve been paddling since I was a teen. I love it and it’s great for your fitness and strength. The harbour is relatively flat water until you get to the heads, so I think it will be a good workout for a Sunday!
“I love a race, a bit of competition is good for the soul. And Leechy and I will have a bit of a laugh along the way. Let’s hope he can keep his timing right!” said Candice, who is the mother of three children. Training since nipper days, she won the NSW State Ironwoman at 16 years of age and competed in ironwoman competitions for more than a decade. Despite three youngsters and a busy life with marriage to cricketer David Warner, Candice trains daily, and showed incredible strength and tenacity as one of the final competitors in SAS Australia 2020.
Favourites for outright winner include defending series champion, the Gold Coast’s Cory Hill (SA born) and Tom Norton (TAS) and Newport paddlers Mitch Trim, Greg Tobin and Luke Morrison; while the women’s division, Georgia Laird and Hannah Minogue should set the pace.
In the highly competitive over-50 Open Ski, legends of the ocean will feature including defending champion for the age class in the Bridge to Beach, North Bondi’s Jim Walker, the Sunshine Coast’s Marty Kenny, and characters of the sport, Tom Williams and Bruce “Hoppo” Hopkins.
But as with all races in the Shaw and Partners series, the Bridge to Beach is open to anyone who is handy with a paddle and expect to see male and female starters ranging from age 14 to 70 +, all keen to put their regular training to the test on the much-loved Sydney Harbour course.
In the 70 and over class, there’s Sydney paddlers Tom Simmatt and Ken Hyman ready to race; while the under 17 class features young Newport ironmen, Harry Taurins and the Morris brothers – Mitch and older bro Zach in competition.
Entries close Friday February 18, with information and registration at oceanpaddler.com
Marshalling from 5.30am: Milson Park, Kirribilli
Deep Water Start 8.00am: Kirribilli Point – backdrop Sydney Harbour Bridge
Finish Line from 8.30am: Manly Wharf Beach – lead competitors expected to arrive 8.45am
The 2022 Manly Wharf Bridge to Beach is a supporter of the Fragile X Association of Australia. Via the event, the paddling community raises money to fund specialist family counselling for people who are affected by Fragile X syndrome – an inherited genetic condition which causes intellectual disability and is linked to autism.
ABOUT THE 2022 SHAW AND PARTNERS AUSTRALIAN OCEAN RACING SERIES
The 2022 Shaw and Partners Australian Ocean Racing Series is the richest ocean paddling series in the world, featuring 16 races in five Australian states and a $350 000 prize pool. Over 11 months, paddlers will face everything from the 11km Manly Wharf Bridge to Beach on Sydney Harbour to WA’s great Rottnest adventure dubbed The Doctor – a 27 km enduro. There’s also race weekends in Forster (NSW) and the Sunshine Coast (QLD), competitions on Sydney’s eastern and northern beaches, a mid-winter torture-test off Adelaide and a surf safari from Hobart. The series chase ends in Sydney, December 10, with the 20 Beaches Ocean Classic from Collaroy to Palm Beach.
For all information and entries go to oceanpaddler.com