Nelson runners expected to dominate popular Queen Charlotte Relay
Can anyone beat the Nelson teams?
That will be the big question as the 35th edition of the Queen Charlotte Relay is staged around the Marlborough Sounds on Saturday.
Last year it was Athletics Nelson teams which set the pace, placing teams first, second and fourth overall as they won three grades.
The Athletics Nelson senior men's team completed the five-leg, 34km course from the Waitohi Domain in Picton to Havelock via Queen Charlotte Drive in two hours, four minutes and 51 seconds, almost five minutes ahead of the club's junior men's team in second place. The race record is one hour 50 minutes.
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The winning team comprised Jared Lautenslager, Sam MacKay-Wright, Angus Wemyss, William Wallace and Kalani Sheridan, with Lautenslager, Wallace and Sheridan returning this year. They will be joined by Sam Read and Max Meffan to make up a formidable combination.
Two Marlborough teams will keep them honest though. The Marlborough veteran combination of Kevin Bishell, Ed Massey, Seb Bacchus, Robbie Barnes and Peter Mann will be in the mix, along with another Marlborough group comprising Billy Hebberd, who will run two legs, John Kennedy, Toby Morris and Haley Fitzgerald.
Race committee spokesperson Wynnie Wu Cosgrove has received 42 team entries so far for what is one of the country's oldest road relays still run on a public highway. Entries have come from Marlborough, Waimea, Nelson, Upper Hutt and Wellington so far.
The first relay took place on September 17, 1982, and has been contested annually without a break. The five-person relay starts outside the Waitohi Domain, in Picton, and finishes in Havelock, outside the Havelock Hotel.
Legs range from 5.1km to 8.6km and take competitors along the undulating public road, with the initial run to Wedge Point the steepest climb and the 6.7km final stage down the Mahikapawa Hill to Havelock the major downhill section.
Several attractive spot prizes will again be at stake, including an Avanti mountainbike and a family pass on the Pelorus Mail Boat.
The event will cover several grades: open men, veteran men (35 plus), open women, veteran women (35 plus), junior men or women (19 & under), social runners (including mixed teams) and walkers. All competitors must be 14 or above on race day.
Walkers leave Waitohi Domain 11.30am while the runners set off at 1pm. The race briefing is at 12.30pm.