The Pam Golding down wind surf-ski challenge, between St Francis Bay and Jeffreys Bay, turned out to be a real challenge on Saturday as strong winds caught the paddlers en route to JBay.
The event started off with wind conditions of 18 knots but shortly into the challenge the wind picked up to 45 knots causing a large majority of paddlers to retire from the race by heading to shore and beaching.
Officials and NSRI volunteers were kept busy identifying those that came ashore and in numerous cases the NSRI sea rescue craft corralled paddlers and assisting them to reach the shore, in many cases by minor rescue operations.
During the event the paddlers became split up from each other making it more difficult to assist in these minor rescues of paddlers who were largely overcome by the strong winds.
It was a difficult task for water safety to tally the paddlers safely accounted for, and those who eventually reached the finish line. However, it was established that three paddlers remained missing.
“An extensive search operation resulted in two of the three missing paddlers being found safe and we assisted them to reach the shore but with one paddler overdue for an hour and a half, NSRI Port Elizabeth’s helicopter rescue unit and the SA Air Force 15 Squadron Charlie Flight were placed on high alert”, said Marc May from St Francis NSRI.
Fishing boats that were in the area at the time were also requested to keep a look out for the missing paddler.
“During the search, NSRI Jeffreys Bay shore crews spotted the paddler off-shore at Aston Bay, Jeffreys Bay, and both a Chokka fishing boat and our auxiliary sea rescue craft EL RAGGY responded and we rescued 51 year old Phil Honey, who was found hanging onto his surf-ski and unable to get back on in the gale force winds” added May.
He had been clinging onto his surf-ski for at least 40 minutes before being rescued and he was not injured.
All paddlers were accounted for and safe and no paddlers were injured.
1 01:12:20 36 Jordan Zeelie BWCC
2 01:12:49 4780 Hayden Skinner 4729 Janine Linder BWCC BWCC
3 01:13:12 Jasper Mocke 4750 Dirk Ellis SFPC
4 01:14:05 4175 Gary Africa 4755 Justin McCalgan BWCC BWCC
5 01:14:09 37 Stuart Laing BWCC
6 01:14:29 3318 Hein Van Rooyen BWCC
7 01:17:23 4171 Jason Goedhals 4172 Natalie Goedhals BWCC BWCC
8 01:19:53 4902 Richard Arderne 4361 Roeltin Louw SFPC SFPC
9 01:23:48 5272 Peter King SFPC
10 01:25:22 4038 Brenden Bosch BWCC
11 01:25:55 44 Robert Lee BWCC
12 01:28:49 2 Justin De Vos BWCC
13 01:39:58 4886 Ray Holmes 4846 Paul Gerrard BWCC BWCC
14 dnf 4813 Andre Van Rooyen BWCC
15 dnf 4205 Peter Hoffman
16 dnf 4293 Phil Honey SFPC