Water sport adventurers will traverse gorges and forests to reach the Swan Valley wine region and navigate the tidal waters of the upper Swan River when they compete in WA’s second longest-running sporting event, the Avon Descent. Solo and team entries for this year’s 124km power dinghy and paddle craft race from Northam to Bayswater are open. Guest writer Tanusree Ghosh met two local competitors.
Entries for the 2017 Avon Descent and details of the race are online at avondescent.com.au.
THERE is an old adage: If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.
Power dinghy racer Matthew Even (30), of Mahogany Creek, and his race partner Nick Gardner went far together to secure second place in last year’s Avon Descent in the 10 HP sports category.
“We ended up using a propeller on day 2, which we hadn’t trialled properly and was incorrect for the conditions,” Matt said. “Basically, we ran out of time before the race to get props sorted and performing how we wanted them to.”
His interest in the sport grew after seeing highlights of the race on television as a kid; he knew it was something he had to do one day.
But it was only when he started working with John Goodbody and Scott Goodbody that his childhood dream came true. They motivated and helped him get started, guiding him in the right direction.
John was an Avon veteran and Scott, a super competitive racer in the sports class. In fact, Matt raced an old boat he was given by John Goodbody in his first Avon race.
When Matt decided to form a team, the inevitable partner was Nick Gardner.
“Nick is my best mate who I have known since I was 12. We have grown up together and spent so much time together over the years that sometimes I think he knows me better than my mum does.
“He knows exactly what I am thinking most of the time, which is extremely helpful in an Avon boat, as you don’t get a lot of time to discuss things while racing.”
Although Matt’s family is not involved actively in the sport, they have been his support system. Matt is also a shipmaster (captain).
“My family is comprised of my mum Deidre, my dad Alwyn and my siblings Alysha and Luke,” he said.
“I am the first in my family to race the Avon. I have completed other races in our boat-racing calendar with both my brother and sister at times when Nick has been away.
“My brother Luke also puts in a massive amount of work for us in the development and fabrication of boat components and equipment.”
Challenges abound in white water racing. Matt faced one of the worst accidents during the Blackwood Classic 250 in 2012, a three -day time trial down the Blackwood river.
“We jumped a large log and as we came down and landed, our boat flipped upside down and washed under the next group of large logs. The flow of water was very strong making it almost impossible to drag it out back upriver.
“Eventually, we managed to dive down and slowly free it by moving it sideways and making our way through a maze of tree branches.
“We were definitely glad to see the finish line on this day.”
Matt said paddling was essential to keep fit before the race and to become familiar with the route and obstacles.
“Power dinghy racing is extremely challenging because you need to have everything right to win.
“First, you need to build a boat that is fast and capable.
“You need to look at your motor and propellers for all different water levels that you may encounter on race day and you need to know the river and all its obstacles inside out.
“Finally, you and your team member need to piece it all together on the day and try not to make mistakes and achieve what you have practised.”
Matt and Nick will compete in Matt’s seventh Avon Descent on August 5 and 6, from Northam to Bayswater. Entries for the 2017 Avon Descent and details of the race are online at avondescent.com.au.
Club inquiries to the Power Dinghy Club via dinghyracing.com.au.