Echuca student claims overall Massive Murray Paddle crown
By Alexander Dabb
Echuca Moama Canoe Club’s James Graham has claimed overall honours at the 2023 Massive Murray Paddle, flying home in the second half of the race to be crowned overall champion last Friday.
The Echuca College student made a strong start to the race during stage one from Yarrawonga Common to Tocumwal boat ramp on Monday, November 20.
Covering the 89km in a time of seven hours, 55 minutes and 26 seconds, he finished third behind stage winners Andrea and Neil Tattersal in a two-person boat and fellow Echuca competitor Phillip Ward.
Stage two saw a re-run of the course from stage one due to checkpoint access issues, and the EMCC junior again finished third, although faring slightly better in terms of time, shaving nearly five minutes from his stage one effort.
The third of five stages saw competitors make their way from Picnic Point to Moama Beach, with Graham making a decisive move up the leaderboard.
It took him 6:42:03 to complete the 77km paddle, more than six minutes faster than his nearest individual competitor, Jo Hamilton-Vale, inheriting an overall lead that he did not relinquish.
Speaking after the taxing middle leg, which included some quite technical sections he was well suited to, Graham admitted he felt positive with more than half the race ticked off, although he was tentative about his prospects of an overall win.
“It’s been all right, I’m a little sore every now and then, but it’s going good,” he said of the first three legs.
“The narrows (on stage three) were easy for us canoers. It got a little bit hard with no current, but then it picked up again.”
Graham was unsure of his chances for the overall win, but he was more than up to the task, navigating the final two stages with aplomb.
Stage four’s 63km race from Moama to Torrumbarry proved a close battle between Graham and Hamilton-Vale, with the EMCC talent beating his rival by less than a minute to retain the lead heading into the final day.
Eighty-eight kilometres awaited paddlers on the final day as the race made its way to Gunbower,
yet Graham proved more than capable of finishing the job, powering through the course — and the unique experience of the race passing through the Torrumbarry Lock — to finish more than 10 minutes ahead of Hamilton-Vale.
The result was enough to secure Graham not only the title of fastest canoe, but his 35 hours, 50 minutes and 44 seconds was the fastest overall time, meaning he also took home the River Trophy for the overall champion.
Ward also recorded a top-five overall finish, claiming fifth place in a time of 37 hours, 43 minutes and 28 seconds.