It's racing season again as the 2017 NSW Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) Premiership Series is set to kick off this weekend at Caves Beach in the Hunter Branch.

The first of four Premiership rounds will see a strong field take to the water with 290 competitors from 21 surf clubs lining up to do battle over two days of thrilling competition.

This season will see the introduction of the IRB relay which involves a continuous race of all four disciplines (Rescue Tube, Mass Rescue, Teams and Rescue). A total of 16 competitors from each club will compete which includes 5 drivers, 5 crew and 6 patients.

Also new to IRB racing is the inclusion of the 45 years and over age division and composite teams which encourages smaller clubs to join together to compete. In the longer term it is hoped that these clubs will grow their teams and be able to compete wholly under their own club colours.

Defending overall Premiership and State Championship winners Kiama Downs SLSC will be the team to beat again after their dominant performances in 2016.

Kiama Downs SLSC IRB Captain Steven Guy says the new additions to the competition will make it a lot tougher.

“There are a number of changes to the competition format this season so we’ll just see how we go. The new format will suit Caves Beach pretty well as they have a couple of older competitors who will race in the 45+ division and have a broader base of members,” Steven Guy said.

Despite this, the veteran of the sport is very much looking forward to another season of racing.

“This is my 30th year of IRB Racing and I still enjoy every minute of it and being able to travel to some of the best beaches in NSW is a bonus,” Steven Guy said.

Caves Beach IRB Captain, Scott Bryant believes it’s essential to start the Premiership well, especially on their home beach.

“We always like racing at our home beach and have been lucky to do so the last few seasons. It’s always nice to kick the season off with not having to travel,” Scott Bryant said.

“We’ve been pushing for the relay event to be included for many years as it is an Australian Championship event so we’re very happy to see it in the Premiership Series. Over 45s also caters for many of our older competitors and their experience is valuable for younger members.”

The sport of IRB racing showcases rescue techniques and highlights the skill and speed used by crews when protecting beachgoers and conducting real life rescues. Ultimately this makes them better surf lifesavers.

SLSNSW Sports Manager, Rob Pidgeon, says there is a lot of excitement around the launch of the Premiership this year.

“We’re really excited to be kicking off the season for the third straight year at Caves Beach. The competitors have had a long off-season and have been training hard around the state in the lead up to the Premiership Series,” said Rob Pidgeon.

“This year the series will showcase some of the best IRB drivers and crew across the state and winning the series is as big as winning the State Championships.”

The IRB Premiership Series will head to Mollymook, Ocean Beach and Cape Hawke for the next three rounds of competition with the State Championships being held at South West Rocks on 1 – 2 July.

The 21 clubs competing at the NSW IRB Premiership in Round 1:

Avalon Beach SLSC, Bungan Beach SLSC, Catherine Hill Bay SLSC, Caves Beach SLSC, Coogee SLSC, Cooks Hill SLSC, Forster SLSC, Kiama Downs SLSC, Maroubra SLSC, Newcastle SLSC, Newport SLSC, Nobbys SLSC, North Avoca SLSC, North Cronulla SLSC, Ocean Beach SLSC, Queenscliff SLSC, South Maroubra SLSC, Terrigal SLSC, Thirroul SLSC, Wamberal SLSC and Woonona SLSC.

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