The leading paddler points the single kayak towards the river bank as the rousing cheers grow from the finish line crowd.
He makes sure the last few paddle strokes are as strong and smooth as the first that shot him away from the start line the morning before.
As he collapses forward with a mixture of exhaustion and elation, another battle is still going on up the river… quite a way up the river.
Alastair Beaton is determined to be a finisher. No cheering crowd here, just the purr of the ever vigilant sweep boat.
“They asked me if I wanted a tow, but I was pretty keen to make it and to beat my previous time,” said Alastair, whose short plastic must have started to feel very long.
The environmental engineer was not taking too much notice of his surroundings as the grind of the flatwater started to sink in.
“I had a few supporters on the riverbank and I was doing what I could to find the energy to keep paddling. I had a honey sandwich and a couple of energy gels and that seemed to do the trick,” he said.
Alastair moved west from Melbourne in 2009 and started to hear about the Avon here and there. His novice year was 2012. He did not finish that year, or the next.
“But I did finish in 2014 and I did not want to go backwards.”
Last year’s winning single kayaker did it in just over nine hours. Alastair would add a bit over eight more hours to that as he crossed the line as the last finisher.
“But I made it before the cut off… I think with about 20 minutes to spare,” he recalled, “ and I just pipped my time from the year before, so that was good.”
Alastair is typical of the competitor that maintains the Avon spirit and demonstrates that the event belongs equally to everyone willing to give it a go…first place, last and everyone in between.