“Close-up” Interview: Brent Dunbar

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The individual struggle on the river is apparent during any Avon Descent, but teamwork is also a

vital part of success in a number of classes.

The multiple paddle craft and power dinghy teams need to fine tune their judgement and

understanding, especially in power where the wrong call is almost impossible to reverse and the

consequences can unfold rapidly and spectacularly.

Brent Dunbar knows this only too well. He has paddled a number of Avons and last year seized the

opportunity to experience the race in a power boat.

Remarkably, Brent scored a victory in his first outing as he and Tom Hodgkinson took the 10hp

Sports title. “That would have to have been the highlight of my time with the Avon,” said Brent. “I

thought we had no chance after flipping while in the lead half way down the valley. The motor was

under for quite a while, but it started and we were away again.”

“By that stage we were in second and had to chase Jay Branson’s boat. The duel was amazing and I

had to tell myself to remember to breathe as we battled it out in the Upper Swan tea trees,” recalled


It takes two to keep these boats on the boil and Brent detailed the main tasks of the co-driver.

“The first job is to adjust and maintain the vessel’s trim. We need to be as far forward as possible to

get it on the plane, then get as far back as we can to reduce the planing area for optimum

performance,” Brent explained.

“Steering is also vital. At high speed with the motor in the “high-jack” position the outboard tiller is

not very effective so changing direction needs to be mostly by weight transfer and the crew are

more or less steering the boat like a surf board.”

Navigating and dragging the boat over or around obstacles completed a day’s work for a co-driver,

said Brent.

“It is almost impossible for a direct comparison between paddle and power, except for navigation.

You don’t have to know the course to paddle the Avon. But to be competitive in a dinghy, you

absolutely need to know which way to go and the quickest way through.”

But through all that hard-edged competition, it is the valley that has its own special rewards.

“The Avon is so beautiful and even paddling down the valley practising is such an amazing and fun

thing to do,” said Brent. “The camaraderie between competitors, power and paddle, is great fun


Brent knows that defending that dinghy title this year will be tough, but says every year is different.

The river will make sure of that.



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