Three Olympic silver medalists and a triple world champion will headline next month’s Ian Ferguson Cup corporate raft day, which kicks off the inaugural Whitewater XL canoe slalom festival in Auckland.
The week-long festival, from November 20-27, features some of the best whitewater paddlers in the world. They’ll face off in a series of events at the new Vector Wero Whitewater Park in Manukau, beginning with the raft racing challenge on November 23.
New Zealand kayaker Luuka Jones, who won K1 silver at the Rio Olympics in August, will skipper one of the rafts hurtling down the world-class whitewater, alongside fellow Kiwi Olympian Mike Dawson.
Other rafters and event ambassadors include Slovakian Matej Beňuš, who won C1 silver in Rio this year, and Czech Republic star Vavra Hradilek, the K1 silver medalist from the 2012 London Olympics.
Rotorua brothers and professional raft guides Jamie and Sam Sutton will also control boats, after returning from the adidas Sickline world extreme kayaking championships in Austria earlier this month.
Sam Sutton, who finished second this year, won the world title three times in a row in a magical stretch between 2010-2012.
United States Olympian Ashley Nee, 14th in Rio, will be joined on the rafts by fellow international paddlers Ciaran Heurteau (Ireland) and Nouria Newman, a double world championship medal-winning French K1 and extreme star.
The raft day is named for New Zealand’s greatest Olympian Ferguson, who now runs the Vector Wero facility. He won four Olympic golds in flat water kayaking, although he started his fabled career as a downriver whitewater racer in Taumaranui.
The raft racing will involve teams of five rafters, plus their whitewater guides, competing in sprint races and head-to-head challenges down the Vector Wero rapids.
For more information about the Whitewater XL festival, go to http://www.wwxl.co.nz