Hawke's Bay kayakers Ben Bennett and Ryan Welch both won titles at the national marathon championships on Porirua Harbour in Wellington during the weekend.
Bennett competed in the 55plus masters K1 section over 24km which included six portage sections. Bennett's winning time of 2hrs4m was the fastest for all masters age groups.
"I was pretty keen to beat Keith Alderson, my K2 partner at the world champs last year and the current world titleholder for the 55+ age group. Keith got the better of me on the portages last year, so I have been working hard on my portage skills for the last couple of months and that really paid off," Bennett said.
Welch damaged his rudder during the first portage, after being in a handy position in the leading bunch of four, in the open men's race. He got dropped off the leading pod and also the following bunch, while straightening out his rudder, and finished his 28 km race in ninth place with a time of 2hrs25m.
Welch is capable of a much better result so it was a disappointing race for him. However, it was payback time for Welch the following day. He raced in the open men's K2 12km three portage race with Sam Newlands from the Bay of Plenty club.
They lead the charge from the gun, but not without three other crews sitting on their wash and continuously challenging for the lead and making for a fast and furious pace throughout the race.
Welch and Newlands both gained a lot of experience at last year's world champs in Singapore, and executed some slick portage sections to win in a time of 52m03s, one second clear from the Waitara pairing of Paul Randall and Adam Fraser.