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2015 Wildwater World Championships


June 30, 2015

by Hugh Pritchard

(Editor's note: The following is a composite of the reports sent by Hugh. Sorry for the delay in posting them.)

Wed, Jun 24, 2015
I just remembered how much I enjoyed reading the news from last year's worlds in Valtellina, so I thought I should write an unauthorized dispatch from the 2015 sprint world championships in Vienna.

The course is a pumped artificial course on the Danube Island, close to the center of Vienna. The course is expensive to operate, so they switch it on at the last minute for the practice session and off promptly at the end. There is no opportunity for unofficial practice like there is on a natural course. We get 50' twice a day, with about 50 boats allocated to our session. It's not as bad as it sounds: boats can start at short intervals, and most people don't rejoin the queue to get on the elevator back to the top as soon as they get to the bottom as they want more rest.

The course is short but challenging. It turns through 180 degrees to the left over its 800' length and drops 12'. The sides are vertical concrete; movable plastic bollards at the sides channel the flow; steps in the bottom, some built up with wooden planks, provide small drops. The racing line seems to be left almost all the way; of course, when the course turns to the left you have to keep working in that direction or you find yourself on the right. A lot of people have had great difficulty and there have been plenty of swims and countless spins. The eddies on the left seem magnetic, yet the waves in each drop kick to the right. Between the two it is quite a narrow line to thread.

The US team (so far) consists of Marin Millar in WK1 and Joe Potoczak and me (Hugh Pritchard) in MK1. We are wondering whether it is possible to substitute Kurt Smithgall for one of the absent men, as he is coincidentally not far away.

That's all for now, as it is time for a team dinner.

Vienna - 2nd Dispatch
Today is the last day of practice. I had been doing as many practice runs as I could, ten to twelve in each 50-minute session, in order to work on my boat-handling skills as well as learn the course. Doing multiple runs on a short course is a great way to learn, as you have plenty of opportunity to retry and improve specific skills and manoeuvres. However, it leaves you very tired, so today I did just four runs in the morning session (I meant to do three, but the third was a poor one so I did another), and skipped the afternoon session. I hope that will leave me fresh enough for tomorrow.

Kurt is doing well and should be OK despite only having had one dayís training on the course. Marin and Joe seem to have it more or less mastered.

Equipment control was open today: checks of boat length, width and weight, helmet and PFD examination. They seemed quite casual about it, so I hope they arenít stricter on race day (for example, they had a PFD test rig but did not use it on mine).

Some vendors have set up stands: Jantex has a vanload of paddles, CS Canoe has a few display models, Webasport is showing its ergos and some guy is peddling souvenir T-shirts. None of them could sell me a set of air-bags, so there will be some swapping to get us through the races.

Tonight is the opening ceremony. This isnít one of the bigger events in Viennaís calendar so it's at the race venue rather than a parade through the city. Tomorrow is individual races, with team races on Sunday.

Vienna - 3rd Dispatch
TimeNet.Web/runs/algetimingtirol/2#K1%20men and timingdata.info/TimeNet.Web/runs/algetimingtirol/3

The modern format is that after the first run, the top few qualify for the final and therefore don't have to do a second run. Everyone else then gets a second run, and the top few from that qualify.

I canít speak for the others, but my first run was good except for a spin for 56Ē, while my second run was tentative with a few minor errors for 49.9Ē. The three US men all finished on 49 seconds, towards the wrong end of the results. The fastest man did 40.3Ē, and the slowest qualifier did 42.6Ē.

Marinís 54Ē looks to be around the middle of the results.

Finals are tomorrow morning, followed by team runs. Thanks to Kurtís answer to the call we have a menís team and are looking forward to another go.

Vienna - Final Day
Finals of the individual events were this morning, followed by team events. That made for a busy day for some of the more illustrious paddlers.

There was no US participation in the finals, but it is always good to watch people going fast down the river.

For the menís team, we put Kurt first, followed by Joe, with me at the back. The first run started smoothly, but I crowded Joe too closely so that when he stalled in a hole I came up beside him and had to make a quick decision as to whether to back off or overtake. I backed off, and found myself in the eddy on the left. As I was still facing downstream I tried a reverse break-in but was still going sideways when I hit the next hole. I side-surfed, power-flipped and rolled up to a big cheer, side-surfed the next hole (the course is a regular succession of small drops) before getting back on course for a very slow time, putting us ahead only of the teams that were DQíd or DNF.

The second run was much the same except that this time it was Joe who took time out. We were a bit quicker, but not quite quick enough to beat the Japanese.

Then it was time to pack up and disperse our boats to their various fates: mine (actually Chris Norburyís) to Zagreb with the Croats; Kurtís to Prijon with the Australian boats; Marinís to Slovenia. Joe had a low-stress arrangement renting from ZBS. We get great support from other teams in this respect, which makes the difficult logistics a little less difficult.

At the medal ceremony I was lucky that my favourite national anthem is the Marseillaise. The athletes sat in the sunshine on the grass looking down onto the podium, coming to their feet for each national anthem. Itís great to see and hear the jubilation when the medalists step onto the podium.

This has been a great fun world championships. I recommend doing this sort of thing. If you havenít then get training, and maybe even volunteer to stage team trials.

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