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North Burleigh: Inflatable Rescue Boat Champs

North Burleigh: Inflatable Rescue Boat Champs

The North Burleigh Surf Life Saving Club has taken out their fifth consecutive Australian Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) Championship in a historic July weekend of racing.

The powerhouse IRB club took out six gold, one silver and two bronze medals to cement their win, continuing their reign as the most successful IRB club in history.

Andrew Kelckhoven, who is coach, captain and competitor of the North Burleigh Surf Life Saving Club said, “I believe we are this good because of a long history of continuous growing of our abilities. We have a solid platform, which was laid by many club stalwarts before our generation of competitors. Our club has a strong culture of success, and more importantly, we are like a big family. This allows our members to learn and develop seamlessly while having a great time. As is with most organisations, you are only as good as your people, your systems, and the culture you cherish.”

The club notched up twice as many points as its nearest competitor, so Andy must be coaching differently to other clubs. “As the sport has evolved, so has my coaching techniques. We have been forced to adapt to a number changes in the sports format and rules over the past 10 years. IRB racing is a challenging sport, so competitors need to prepare themselves physically. They are also required to prepare their boats and motors, and of course each team must acquire the skills to operate a vessel in extremely challenging water conditions. There are then many areas to master within. So unless you tick all the boxes, the chances of success are slim. Being both the coach and a competitor of our team has its challenges. However, I really enjoy nurturing new and young competitors more so than my own success.”

Remarkably, Andy’s own team boat won three of the four of the open races. But it could have been four of four, if not for mother nature. “Like all Surf Life Saving events, we compete in the surf, and anyone who has been to the beach can understand the unpredictability of the ocean particularly at the beach. I was unfortunate in my final race of the Surf Rescue to meet a wave only a few boat lengths offshore, which broke on top of us, all but stopping the boat and filling it with water. This final race is known as the blue ribbon event, and allows for no mistakes or misfortune. So, we were met with some bad luck and it was not meant to be. My old foe, Nathan Foster, was in the alley next to me, and suffered a similar fate. It was a shame to not be able to have another hit-out with him. Luckily, we had other crew who picked up a bronze medal for the club, with Spencer Moncrieff driving and Anthony Shanagan as the crewman.”

When asked to pinpoint what it is that makes North Burleigh Surf Life Saving Club so much better at racing than the rest of the Australian teams, Andy ponders, “Our culture, like all other surf club culture, is one which is built from members willing to volunteer their time to patrol our beaches around Australia for no pay. This very fact, I believe, separates IRB racing culture from other sports. North Burleigh has a unique culture in that we all race for each other. We will do anything to assist each other on and off the beach. This family-like atmosphere has strengths on many different levels.”

Surf Life Saving Australia general manager of capacity and capability, Greg Meagher, said that the record number of crew competing noticeably increased the quality of competition. “This year, we had over 720 competitors, the most we’ve ever had, and it was clear the number of competitors brought up the quality of competition significantly,” he said.

Andy, not being one to take all the glory, was quick to note that, “Our female team won five medals: three gold, one silver, and one bronze. Mikaela Rawlings (driver) and Maddie Phillips (crewman) won three gold medals (Mass Rescue, Teams Race, Surf Rescue races). It was their first year together as crew and only second year racing, which is a massive effort! Brooke Ward (driver) and Sarah Cartwright (crewman) won one gold in teams race; one silver, behind Mikaela in Mass Rescue race; and a bronze with Surf Rescue Race.”

The scores speak for themselves. Andrew Kelckhoven will not only be written in history as one of the greatest all-round IRB athletes of his time, but more importantly he is a great role model for the Surf Life Saving community and a very humble and generous champion. Well done mate!

By Andy Kancachian