Tom Norton and Jemma Smith battled challenging conditions and a stellar field to take race honours in the second event of Shaw and Partners WA Race Week, winning the first Dr Ben Hewitt Sunset Surfski Series challenge at City of Perth beach.
It was tough from the start, a blistering hot Perth afternoon with gusty offshore winds. In a late call, organisers moved the course from a start at Fremantle to City Beach, to a race centred on City Beach paddling north to a turning point north at Floreat Drain and back. Three laps, 3.4 km per lap, a total course of 10.2km to the City Beach finish line, with close to 300 paddlers racing.
From a deep water start and into a slight head-wind, the pace was lightning fast and in the men’s race it was German paddler Gordan Harbrecht who streaked ahead leading the field through the first two laps, with Australians Tom Norton and Cory Hill in close pursuit.
Harbrecht and Norton dropped Hill at the last turn at Floreat Drain, and then raced head-to-head for the final 1.7 km home, sprinting up the beach with new dad Norton from the Gold Coast the victor with a time of 42m57.7s. Harbrecht, who was 4th in the recent world championships, was second by a whisker – just 3 seconds behind, and Hill came through for third a further 16 seconds back.
After two races in WA Race Week, Norton has a 2nd and a 1st under his belt; Hill a 1st from Saturday’s win in the Fenn West Coast Downwinder and today a third; and Harbrecht’s impressive City Beach performance sees him add a 2nd place to his 13th in the opening race.
“It was a tough race,” said Norton who originally hails from Tasmania. “But I’m happy with the way it unfolded, happy with the way I performed when the pressure was certainly on.
“I was able to take advantage of the minimal runs that were there, but it was impossible to shake Gordan and in the end it came to the dash up the beach. I think, we are all on warning, Gordan means business.”
In the women’s race, the pocket-rocket Jemma Smith scored her second win of the week. Smith and her arch-rival, Danielle McKenzie, raced the entire journey neck-on-neck neither giving each other an inch. It came to the sprint up the beach, where McKenzie made an error of judgement dropping her ski on the shore rather than pulling it to the first flag as was the rule. She bolted ahead of Smith to the finish line, but realised her mistake and returned to salvage her ski.
Smith took the win in 47m53.6, and once McKenzie recovered her ski and made her way to the flag, she crossed nearly a minute down in 48m49.6. Third was Canadian Olympian, Maddy Schmidt, in a time of 49m23.2s.
It’s been a perfect start for Smith from the NSW Central Coast, who in September won the ICF World Ocean Ski Championship in Portugal, and is now eyeing the coveted title of The Doctor this Saturday.
Next race in the five-event Shaw and Partners WA Race Week is Thursday at 5pm with another Dr Ben Hewitt Sunset race; followed by Friday’s Dash for Cash at Sorrento. The finale takes place Saturday with The Doctor, the 27km downwind race from Rottnest Island to Sorrento, with a start time expected around noon.
Tom Norton (AUS)
Gordan Harbrecht (Germany)
Cory Hill (AUS)
Jemma Smith (AUS)
Danielle McKenzie (NZ)
Maddy Schmidt (Canada )
Full results at