Changing Conditions ...

By Jim on Monday, May 3, 2010

When conditions change, your plans and tactics must change.  Be prepared for all possibilities.  This way you will be able to race to the best of your abilities and use whatever conditons present themselves - no surprises, just results.

Day One at the 2010 Oceania Kayak Championships saw hot and humid conditions at Sydney International Regatta Centre in Penrith. The 200m events were first on the program with very fast and furious racing completed in the extremely warm conditions. Throughout the day of heats and semis the conditions were flat with little to no wind.

Then just before the 200m finals commenced a strong head wind came up. This is where the conditions play a very big part in competition. The head wind had added a few more seconds to the race. With a condition change there are several things that competitors need to think about including - the trim of their boat, length of there blade and most of all an adjustment in race plan. All these things are about preparing properly, taking the time to watch what’s happening at the course and having the right equipment to make the change.

For example, when you are considering the trim of the boat in big winds you are best to adjust your weight and shift it backwards to take the nose out of the water.  This would prevent it from digging into the waves that have been created from the wind, this is the same for a tail wind or a head wind.  Ofcourse the adjustment varies with the severity of the wind.

The length of the blade may be shortened in a tail wind as the race will be shorter due to that wind  With the shorter blade you can lift your rating over the shorter race.  For a head wind you would keep the blade as per normal.  Remember to try this at training first.

Both the men’s and women’s 200m winners Chris Alagich and Jo Brigden-Jones would have been very prepared for all of these things. Both are very experienced paddlers - Chris is currently undefeated over 200m this season while Jo is a 500m World Finalist, both paddlers would have been prepared no matter what conditions greeted them on race day.


Day two was a role reversal of day one with very heavy rain falling all day – a condition change yet again. How do you prepare for all these changes?
No matter what the weather report says you should always bring the right amount of paddling gear, enough clothes and thermals to stay warm. Having options is the way to go, you can always not wear something.

Another consideration is when changes slow or delay the event program. If the event has fallen behind in time by an hour you may find yourself sitting in the sun or rain for over an hour, you may need to re time your warm up, fuel intake etc.

Day two saw all 500m races conducted and in the men’s event Olympic Champion Ken Wallace showed his class edging out Murray Stewart. While in the women’s event Jo Brigden–Jones showed her class taking out the 200m and 500m double.


Day three was a bit of a mixed bag in terms of conditions with both hot and rainy weather greeting competitors. With all the changes in conditions it would be those who were best prepared throughout the entire regatta who would come home strong. By day three you can be sure you will be feeling the effects of two days of racing. If you have used up all your energy trying to keep your body warm on the rainy days and cool on the hot days you will pay the price for that by the final day of competition.

It is very important to remember that no matter if it is raining or hot in competition you must hydrate yourself. Keeping your fluids and food intake up will help over consecutive days of racing.
The men’s K1 1000m final was a very exciting race with 500m winner Ken Wallace coming home very fast to beat New Zealand Olympian Stephen Ferguson the Murray Stewart for the minor places. New Zealand got their revenge in the K2 1000m taking the top two places with world silver medallists David Smith and Luke Morrison third.


The best advice you can ever get for racing is always be prepared for the conditions to change. Make sure your equipment, clothing is suitable for lots of changes and your food and fluid intake up no matter what the conditions. Mother nature can always change quickly.

So after three different days of competition you can see why it is important to train in all types of conditions. You never know what the elements of the day of competition will be like.

Best be prepared by training in them all.