Pasha Dasha Grand Prix’s return a success

Newcastle’s harbour was a hive of paddling activity on Saturday when the popular Pasha Dasha Grand Prix returned to the city’s shores.

Hundreds of paddlers and 33 outrigger canoes hailing from 19 clubs around NSW, ACT and Queensland turned out for the seventh Pasha Dasha, which was last held in Newcastle in 2016.

Race director Stephen Dawes from host club Newcastle Outrigger Canoe Club said the regatta had an encouraging total of 322 entries.

“We changed things up this year, made the races pretty dynamic, which seemed to be a hit with the clubs,” he said. “We had some really positive feedback.”

The Pasha Dasha Grand Prix was once again added to the Australian Outrigger Canoe Racing Association’s NSW Zone regatta schedule following a two year hiatus.

The event is considered to be one the state’s largest inter-club outrigger canoe racing regattas.

Teams from as far as Ulladulla, Mollymook and Port Macquarie attend the event, joining clubs from Newcastle, Port Stephens and Sydney.

It is made up with a short and a long course race ranging from 4.5km to 27km in distance – ideal for novice to experienced paddlers.

The course includes flat water and open ocean racing. It starts inside the harbour near Horseshoe Beach, runs out along the inside of the southern breakwall before heading out into the open ocean off Nobbys Beach.

The “crew changes” format for the 27km long race was also a hit.

Instead of the usual six person crew, each team has a crew of nine. Crew member swap-outs were permitted on Horseshoe Beach after each 5.4km lap.

“Our format benefits paddlers not confident of doing crew changes in open water allowing them to build better experience in a competitive situation, and it also provides paddlers with extra race start practice which includes the thrill of close racing,” Dawes said.

Richard Thomson, vice president of Newcastle Outrigger Canoe Club, said Saturday’s Pasha Dasha was a success.

“It went very well,” he said. “The weather was ideal, the sea wasn’t too bad going out, the course was challenging but not difficult. We had a really good turn out.”

About 36 of the Newcastle club’s growing membership base, now more than 50 people, volunteered to help run the Pasha Dasha Grand Prix. Some also found time to pick up a paddle and hit the water.

The next event on Newcastle Outrigger Canoe Club’s calendar is Lake Macquarie Paddlefest on March 3.

For the past 13 years, as long as Paddlefest has been running, the canoe club has helped to run the day’s water activities.