3 November 2013 - Fastest St Barths crossing yet!

Ideal conditions made it possible for surfski paddlers to achieve the fastest times yet in this year's 9th edition of the Soualiga Challenge. This annual race from Gustavia to Oyster Pond, has provided the competitors with a variety of weather conditions over the years. Sometimes hot, sometimes with vicious currents, sometimes with adverse wind and swell conditions and sometimes with a combination of all. This year however, the sea gods smiled on the small group of paddlers who set off from Gustavia at 9:30am on Sunday morning.

Unlike previous years when this event showed a strong field of international paddlers, this year was relatively small, with competitors from St Maarten, St Martin and Guadeloupe taking part. The race got off to a fast start and paddlers quickly settled down to their race paces. A light tailwind on the protected southern side of St Barths helped the field along nicely before they reached the confused sea between St Barths and Isle Fourche, where some paddlers could pick up their speed surfing the swells while others were challenged by the difficult conditions. After Isle Fourche, the pace picked up, with plenty of surfing on the ocean swells at over 20km/h.

Guadeloupean Olivier Tanton established a lead from the start and was never seriously challenged. He lead the field home in a time of 1:54:21, a new record for the present course and only 17 seconds off the record for the older (650m shorter) course set in 2007 by South African Barry Lewin. He was followed home by Stuart Knaggs in 2:04:56 and JP Piscione in 2:12:26, with this year's only female paddler, Nataly Dannenberg, arriving in sixth place in a time of 2:51:54, all achieving personal best times for the course.

The award ceremony was held at Captain Oliver's Marina, where hand made chocolate medals were presented to the paddlers. The organisers promised to put on a special event for the 10th anniversary next year, bringing the race back into the world circuit and attracting the full international field that competed here in the past.