More than 50 of New Zealand’s top inflatable rescue boat crews will get a sneak preview of the national championship venue at Saturday’s Papamoa IRB Classic.
The Next Door Realty-sponsored Classic, which will feature four divisions of racing, has been bumped back in the season after its wildly successful return last summer, when 42 crews turned up to race at the end of January.
However, as Papamoa is hosting the BP Surf Rescue championships in April, Classic organiser Shane Smith said it made sense to bring it back to December.
“There’s a hole in the competition calendar pre-Christmas this season so we decided to jump in and grab it,” Smith said. “It’s perfect for crews wanting to come and test the venue before nationals, because they’ll then get plenty of time to go away and work on things, but it’s also ideal for new crews wanting to see where they stack up.”
The remnants of Cyclone Tuni are expected to keep a decent swell hitting the Bay of Plenty coast well into the weekend, with ideal 1.5m waves forecast for the Classic. That won’t faze the host crews, who braved 6m swells during Cyclone Pam earlier this year, as one of their final hit-outs before dominating the nationals in Dunedin in March.
The last major surf lifesaving event at Papamoa was the North Island IRB championships in late 2013, which Papamoa won to kick off a dream run. In the past 18 months, they’ve won two national titles, one world title and defended their North Island crown in Taranaki a year ago.
There will be a strong Taranaki presence on Saturday, with four clubs – Opunake, Fitzroy, East End and New Plymouth Old Boys – all making the trip up, joined by Himitangi (Palmerston North) and Paekakariki.
Waikane will represent the Gisborne clubs, Hawke’s Bay’s Waimarama are sending a strong team while Pauanui and Waihi Beach come down from Coromandel and United North Piha and Sunset Beach head down from the Northern Region.
The Papamoa Classic was a regular event in the hey-day of IRBs but was bought back last year to fill an obvious void in the sport.
“Our major focus is on the crews enjoying themselves,” Smith said. “IRBs are a serious and vital piece of surf lifesaving equipment and everything we do is geared to saving lives on the beach but we also need to keep the fun-factor there to keep our crews keen.”
Racing starts on Saturday at 9am.