12th April 2019.
In order to qualify for the International Rafting Federation World Championships (IRFWC), teams are selected through recognized National and International selection systems that verify their ability as the world’s best white water rafting teams.
The first World Rafting Championship started in 1987 in Siberia. Today the event has progressed in professionalism to draw crowds in excess of 30,000.
The competition consists of 4 different events.
Points earned in each discipline are added to determine the overall winner and final positions. Each team has 6 members with the option to two reserves.
A brief outline of each event is as follows:
SPRINT – Is a hard, fast, short burst of speed for the teams. It is ideally over a fairly short distance and is about 2 to 3 minutes of hard padding – 10% of the overall points.
HEAD 2 HEAD – Is without doubt the most visually exciting discipline as it is pitting two teams together in a fast-paced sprint for the finish line. This event includes two big buoys on both the left hand and right-hand side of the river. Teams have to complete a 360 degree turn around one of the buoys on both the left and right hand side of the river before finishing the course.
Teams may choose which two buoys they navigate, so team tactics play a big part, especially because contact between rafts is allowed. It is ideally over a short distance but must be through a rapid, normally taking the team between 2 to 5 minutes to run the course.
Two teams are set off together with the team having the best time in the Sprint given a lane choice. It is an elimination race in which pairs of teams race to the next round and eventually just 2 teams will remain for the Final – 20 % of the overall points.
The Echo H2O Under-23 Men’s team from Tully qualified at the 2018 Pre Worlds / ARF National Titles for the International Rafting Federation (IRF) World Rafting Championships.
SLALOM – Is the most technically challenging event where teamwork is essential to negotiate the raft through a minimum of 12 downriver and upriver gates in powerful rapids. Touching, failing to pass or intentionally moving a gate results in a penalty. Each team runs the course twice and their best time is used to determine the results – 35% of the overall points.
DOWNRIVER – Is the star event of the World Rafting Championships and mentally and physically challenges the best teams in up to an hour of racing along a section of continuous and powerful rapids. The points earned by the teams in the previous events determine their position in the starting line-up in groups up to 5 rafts – 35% of the overall points.
Training for four different disciplines and be difficult, as each discipline requires a slightly different skill, along with a different mental approach.
In general, training begins with trying to build base fitness. This will give you a platform to work on speed later on and is vital for the downriver event. Teams will quite often complete long, slower paced paddles increasing their pace over time whilst also working on raft control.
Once teams have a good base fitness, they will start working on speed for the sprint and Head 2 Head (H2H) events. Rafts are not very streamlined and are like paddling big barges, so teams will spend a lot of time on the start of the sprint and being able to get the raft moving as quickly as possible from a standing start.
Once you have the start sorted you can move onto being able to maintain raft speed over a sprint distance. This will also incorporate practicing going around a buoy and continuing on with your sprint for H2H practice. If there are other teams also training, teams will team up and practice H2H battles with raft to raft contact and different tactics that may be used.
Slalom training is usually the hardest for local teams as we don’t have the facilities other countries have. Many countries especially in Europe have well equipped slalom courses constantly set up due to their heavy involvement with canoe slalom. Raft teams can easily utilize these facilities to hone the skills and have access to walk their raft back to the starting point so they can continuously run the course.
Similar to the Sydney White Water Stadium. Most Aussie teams will be able to hang a couple of gates up to practice on, but due to the nature of our waterways this normally entails running that particular section of river once and then having to continue down the river to a takeout spot that could be 30 minutes down the river. Teams will normally utilize the features of the river to practice their turns and raft control whilst paddling down the river.