Ocean Racing

Scenic Hong Kong, with its bustling harbour crowded with Chinese junks, international shipping lines and tourist ferries, also this year hosted the ICF World Ocean Racing Championships.

It was against this picture-perfect backdrop that South Africa’s Hayley Nixon became the third women’s World Champion from as many events, and Australia’s Cory Hill successfully defended the world title he won in Tahiti in 2015.

The conditions for the men’s and women’s races could not have been more opposite, with the women’s event raced in tranquil waters, while the men’s race unfolded in conditions better suited to the discipline – wind, waves and wash.

In the women’s race, Nixon took the lead after the first turn and never looked back, firstly beating back the challenge from early race leader, Teneale Hatton of New Zealand, and then withstanding a late challenge from South African teammate, Michelle Burn.

“World champion – I think I’m going to cry. I’ve been waiting to hear that all my life. It sounds amazing,” Nixon said.

“I had to talk to myself quite a lot. There was never room for complacency. I was looking over my shoulder every 200 metres.

“I couldn’t be more proud. I’ve finished next to a previous World Champion, and Michelle Burn, who was almost a World Champion. I couldn’t be prouder, but I’m exhausted.”

The race turned into more of a marathon event than an ocean race, the flat still conditions in complete contrast to conditions in Hong Kong earlier in the week.

Nixon, who came to ocean racing from a rowing background, said although she would have preferred more challenging conditions, the flat water worked to her advantage.

“I think a lot of these girls come from surf lifesaving and big wave backgrounds, so they’re really lethal in the runs. That’s where they’re efficient.

“I’m really efficient when it’s long and hard. For me, the harder the better. That’s where I really get to thrive.”

South Africa Hayley Nixon Ocean Racing

24 hours later, and the weather had turned. No-one was happier than Australia’s Hill, who had tamed the wild oceans of Tahiti two years earlier to storm to a first world title.

Hill took the lead early, and once again proved he is the master of the big swell by holding off a strong late challenge from South Africa’s marathon world champion, Hank McGregor, with another South African, Jasper Mocke, taking third.

The Australian won the 2015 World Championships in similar conditions in Tahiti, after finishing second at the very first World Championships behind another South African, Sean Rice, in Portugal in 2013.

Despite being a previous world champion, Hill had never won in Hong Kong despite several attempts.

“To be honest, I didn’t see anyone for the whole race, until we got around Kissing Whales,” Hill said.

“Then I knew Jaspar and Hank were right there. I saw two black boats in fact, and there were a lot of black boats out there so I got confused with who it was.

“I had nightmares that Hank, we’ve had pretty big duels coming in from Kissing Whales for four or five years, and he’s got me every single one, so I had this nightmare in my head.

“It’s just awesome to finally get it, to finally have a win in Hong Kong and to retain that World Championship. It’s pretty unreal, to be honest. A bit overwhelming.”

Cory Hill Hong Kong Ocean Racing World Championships

McGregor said he thought he had a chance to overhaul the Australian when they turned for the final run to the finish, but found Hill too hard to catch.

“It’s never over until it’s over, but he deserves it,” McGregor said.

“We’ve had a ding-dong battle for the last couple of races, so today it was reversed. He’s a champion, he deserves it.”

In the U23 division, South Africa’s Kenny Rice took the men’s title, while Australia’s Oscar Jones took the U18 crown.

In the women’s, Sweden’s Linnea Stensils took the gold, while South Africa’s Sabina Lawrie was the U18 champion.

Event organisers were full of praise for the organisers of the Hong Kong World Championships, which saw outstanding promotion throughout the city, and strong support from the local government and community.

It continued the policy of the ICF Ocean Marathon committee to take Ocean Racing to as many continents as possible, having already been to Europe and Oceania.

It was also the inaugural Asian Canoe Marathon Championships, with a big contingent of locals and Chines paddlers.

2017 Magazine