Inside UNLEASHED x Uganda – Day 4 Hair of the Dog Mass Start
It all comes down to this. The 4th and final stage of UNLEASHEDxUganda took place yesterday in the form of a mass start race down the Hair of the Dog rapid. Hair of the Dog is one of the longest, and biggest formations of waves on the White Nile as it twists and turns through different channels for just over ½ km. A race format designed to promote chaos with the only 1 guarantee; unpredictable madness would ensue as 29 athletes, men and women together, lined up at the start line.
This race was a perfect finale as the confusion and chaos of a 29-competitor race would ensure a shake up in the overall standings. The format of the race was simple and the goal was even simpler. Athletes lined up in a complete backwards start and waited for the start judge to yell GO. First racer to the bottom wins.
Athletes shuffled forwards or backwards across the vast channel in attempt for a straight line and fair start. The start line was silent, athletes waiting anxiously for the action to begin. There was no countdown, just a loud GO broke the silence followed by the roar of 29 blades churning the water. Athletes spun around quick and began an all out sprint for the front of the pack. There were different strategies amongst the athletes. Some chose to burst out of the start and try to take the lead, others stayed more relaxed, settling into the middle of the pack and waited to make their moves later on. The beautiful thing about this race was absolutely no one finished the race in the same position as they entered the first rapid.
Bartosz Czauderna (POL) got off to a fast start and lead the crowd of competitors around the bend and into the first set of small waves. Hot on his tail was the crowd of racers in pursuit as they settled into more of a line and less of a cluster. Craig Ayers (UK) and Alan Ward (UK) took advantage of Bartosz Czauderna (POL) cutting the first corner too tight and overtook him as they commenced their own battle for the lead. Kalob Grady (CAN) and Dane Jackson (USA) patiently waited around 6th -8th place through the opening section of the rapids before making a big move. Most racers chose to take a direct line high above the mandatory move rock, whilst Craig Ayers (UK), Kalob Grady (CAN) and Dane Jackson (USA) opted to take the move wide and stay in the current. This opened up a small gap for the leading three from the chase pack and provided the chasing athletes a visual to which line choice was faster. Quim Fontane (CAT), Sadat Kawawa (UGA) and Yusuf Basalirwa (UG) also took advantage of this faster line and entered the final set in swift pursuit of the lead three.
Kalob Grady (CAN) made a quick pass of Craig Ayers (UK) entering the final set of waves and kept the lead all the way through to the finish. Dane Jackson (USA), Quim Fontane (CAT), and Sadat Kawawa (UK) also navigated the last section well and surpassed Craig Ayers (UK). The top 6 made quick work of a clean finish and then had the absolute best seats in the house to watch the unfolding battles as 23 other athletes stormed into the final eddy and put forth their best efforts to touch the finish banner. Quinton Kennedy (CAN) entered the final move in 9 place and was unable to reach the finish banner to almost the very end. Athletes fought and reached to touch before others as athletes continued to flood the eddy. Carbon boats crashed together, paddles were swung wildly, and then, all over. The sounds of countless collisions were replaced with high fives and group cheers. The climax of the week had arrived and the stoke was in full swing.
The women’s race took place simultaneously with the men’s. The 2 categories merged as 1 for this grand finale to UNLEASHEDxUganda. The women tangled right from the get go and Lowri Davies (UK) got off to a clean start with the lead pack as the flock of racers battled around the first corner. Darby McAdams (USA) was sharp and focused at the start line, looking to sweep all 4 of the women’s competitions. Lowri Davies (UK) managed to stay clean through the dynamic waves and held on through the finishing stretch to edge out Darby McAdams (USA) for the victory. Katie Kowalski (CAN) charged into the finish line strong and took 3rd place whilst Aoife Hanrahan (IRE) and Amina Nakirya (UGA) fell into misfortunes early on the race course and still fought hard to the finish.
The grand finale was truly a sight to see. The determination in athletes to touch the finish, and the skill they have displayed all week were laid out on the line for everyone to see. The fist pumps, the cheers, the high fives and the hugs were everything organizers wanted to see. The comradery between athletes only seconds after fighting a desperate fight was astonishing to see. 29 competitors going to head to head, all with a high level of respect for their fellow competitors is a true sign of the level of friendship and family felt within the tight knit kayaking community. After spending the entire week eating, sleeping, travelling and kayaking together; friendships are tighter, stories are better and life is good!
Full Results Day 4 Hair of the Dog Mass Start
1st – Lowri Davies
2nd – Darby McAdams
3rd – Katie Kowalski
4th – Amina Nakirya
5th – Aoife Hanrahan
1st – Kalob Grady
2nd – Dane Jackson
3rd – Quim Fontane
4th – Sadat Kawawa
5th – Craig Ayers
6th – Yusuf Basalirwa
7th – Nick Beavis
8th – Musa Mutamba
9th – Alan Ward
10th – Kaelin Friedenson