Titouan Puyo and Annabel Anderson Win 2017 Carolina Cup
On a day where the world’s top paddlers battled both choppy downwind and brutal upwind conditions, it was New Caledonia’s Titouan Puyo and New Zealand’s Annabel Anderson who emerged victorious once again at the 2017 West Marine Carolina Cup.
This symbolic kick-off to the 2017 SUP racing season did not disappoint, with hard-fought battles in both the Men’s and Women’s 13-mile elite race. The race was a grind with temperatures reaching 80 degrees and wind gusts topping 15-20 knots, nevertheless, the two victors from last year once again rose to the challenge and mastered this grueling course.
The race began with a whipping 3.5 mile downwind section that quickly separated the leaders from the rest of the field in the Men’s race. This group was basically a who’s who of standup paddlers: Puyo, Michael Booth, Connor Baxter, Mo Freitas and Travis Grant.
The five of them worked together for about an hour to break away from the second draft train-a larger one comprised of eleven paddlers. At the halfway point, Michael Booth broke ranks and attempted to break away from the pack and open up a lead.
His efforts were fruitless.
With the lead pack beginning to jockey for position in the inlet, powerhouse Tahitian paddler Georges Cronsteadt dragged the trailing pack of eleven paddlers to the front and he assumed the race lead, an impressive feat considering he was mired in the mid-20s following the tough start. This created a massive lead pack of over 10 paddlers as they struggled against the mighty headwind.
It was during this brutal stretch where pre-race favorite Michael Booth appeared to hit a wall, dropping off the lead draft train and eventually falling to an unexpected 18th place finish.
He would not be the only top paddler to have a rough day. After never finishing off the podium in his five prior races here, 3-time Carolina Cup winner Danny Ching came home 10th. Mo Freitas fell to 13th after being in the lead pack for much of the race.
It was the type of race that broke several paddlers, but not the man from New Caledonia.
Despite surrendering an early lead in the draft train shuffle, Puyo would not be denied. In shades of last year, the New Caledonian powered away from the pack once they reached the ocean for the final one-mile downwinder sprint. It was a gap he would maintain to become a back-to-back Carolina Cup champion.
“My goal was to get to the downwinder first and I caught the first wave which made a difference,” Puyo said. “Then I just caught every bump I could find.”
He was closely followed by veteran Travis Grant, who is a constant on the podium here, despite claiming to have trained less than past years. The Tahitians also put in a very strong effort with Cronsteadt rounding out the podium and fellow countryman Steeve Teihotaata coming home fourth.
The women’s field was a bit lighter than expected, with usual suspects Candice Appleby and Sonni Hönscheid no shows for the weekend.
Their absence meant that the women’s race was all about “Five-Time” Annabel Anderson. For the fifth year in a row, the Kiwi motored away from her competition to claim victory on the shores of Wrightsville Beach.
After Fiona Wylde took an early lead following the initial downwind section, the duo drafted together for over half the race. Eventually, Anderson’s powerful stroke proved to be too much for Wylde and she eventually pulled away for the victory. After crossing the finish line, Anderson had some interesting post-race comments regarding Fiona’s drafting tactics.
“If I’m being honest, it’s like I towed [Fiona] for over an hour,” Anderson said. “Eventually it was like, it’s time to have a race. Side-by-side and I literally blew through a train of guys in front of me and got a big gap. So, number five.”
Nevertheless, Anderson congratulated Wylde on the runner-up effort, her highest-career finish and first podium at this race.
“It was a gutsy perfomance [by Fiona] and I’m literally here to help teach this new generation how to race,” Anderson said. “But I believe in my work and I knew when I wanted to go and I had it in the tank to do so.”
After a grueling day on the water, the athletes now get to celebrate (or lick their wounds) as another SUP racing season is underway. It’s sure to be a season full of twists and turns, comers and goers, as paddlers continue to compete and train through another very long year.
Be sure to check in with us at SUP magazine for all the latest news, highlights, analysis, and photos. In the meantime, stay tuned for an upcoming photo gallery and in-depth analysis of all the action here in Carolina.
ELITE GRAVEYARD RACE: MEN
|31||Tommy Buday Jr.||2:27:00|
|57||Brandon van Elslander||2:51:26|
Elite Graveyard Race: Women
See who we picked to win this race.
Photos and recap from last year’s race.