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A clean slate meets our eager Inflatable Rescue Boat racers this weekend as the 2024 Sharkskin NSW IRB Championships descends on Cape Hawke SLSC – the competitive return of a state event to the region for the first time in 18 months.

After last hosting the 2023 NSW Country Championships at the back end of January last year, the Lower North Coast Branch is ready and raring to go once again with more than 300 of the state’s best IRB drivers, patients and crew members set to bring the heat to One Mile Beach.

The line-up is strong once again and largely mirrors that of the IRB Premiership season, which unfortunately wrapped up its fourth and final round in torrential rain and under incontestable conditions at Ocean Beach SLSC a fortnight ago.

But where there were damp squibs on the Central Coast, there will be fireworks in Forster with 18 clubs all a shot at taking out the biggest prize on offer through the one-off Championship program.

The club from around the headland will lead the local charge – Forster SLSC was the northernmost competitive squad this year and will relish the opportunity to drive three minutes down the road to contest the action rather than three hours.

Clubs from within the Hunter to Illawarra belt largely round out the rest of those competing – teams from Tea Gardens-Hawks Nest SLSC to Thirroul SLSC will be on the starting line over the course of the weekend – while Kiama Downs SLSC a little further south completes the roster for 2024.

On Kiama Downs, it was not so much a Premiership series to forget but one to learn from after narrowly beating out a strong South Maroubra SLSC for second spot – a position unfamiliar to the South Coast club after nearly a decade of dominance in the sport through the 2010s and early 2020s.

That said, Newport SLSC and Thirroul were among the other clubs to show glimpses of a potential Championships-winning formula over the course of the six-week Premiership and will form the heart of the host of challengers looking to overcome a curious historical anomaly of the past few years – that it takes more than two words in your club name to be a title contender.

And then we come to the reigning champions, 2024 Premiership victors and probably the hottest commodity in IRB racing coming into the weekend – Caves Beach SLSC.

The squad boasts strength and depth in numbers and the lightning strike caps will be the ones to beat when finals Sunday rolls around, but they’ll be aware that anything is possible; particularly with conditions set to play a part in the early racing.

Large swell is predicted for Friday afternoon – when racing begins – and by the time it settles down into Saturday’s schedule it may have already wreaked havoc with some teams’ Championships hopes.

The 2024 Sharkskin NSW IRB Championships will take place from 5-7 July at Cape Hawke SLSC on the Lower North Coast. MidCoast Council is a proud supporter of the Championships.

Wednesday 3 July 2024