Kayakers safe at sea

Published on LEUT Kevin King (author and photographer)

Location(s): Ulladulla, NSW

Paddlers in action as seen from Navy's Bell 429 helicopter. (photo: LEUT Kevin King)
Paddlers in action as seen from Navy's Bell 429 helicopter.

Navy helicopters occasionally provide a unique safety service up and down the southern New South Wales coast, which also proves an excellent training opportunity for junior aviators.
 
On Valentine's Day this year, the Fleet Air Arm's 723 Squadron sent a Bell 429 helicopter to support the world’s best ocean paddlers as they converged on the Ulladulla Harbour
 
The Makai Paddlers Cup Challenge is a national long distance sea kayaking event held in the coastal town each year and this year Navy provided overhead search and rescue support during the competitive event.
 
Competitors use the prevailing sea and wind conditions to surf the race distance of 20 kilometres.

Petty Officer Aircrewman Marty Bell presents the Makai Paddlers winners trophy.

Petty Officer Aircrewman Marty Bell presents the Makai Paddlers winners trophy.


 
The aircraft provided welcome cover for the paddlers in a choppy sea and swell.
 
The aircraft landed on the on the harbourside and Aircraft captain Lieutenant Commander Gavin Johnston, and Petty Officer Aircrewman Martin Bell were invited to present the trophy to the overall winner on completion.
 
Director of the event, Mr Bruce Mitchell, said the helicopter impressed nor only providing a safety element, but as a catching visual for the spectators.
 
"Wow, what can I say! Spectacular, brilliant, priceless are a few words that come to mind," he said.
 
"I am sure the 103 competitors will never forget seeing the Bell 429 hovering over the turn marker - it was a was a beacon for all to see.
 
He said he received comments from all over the world with regards to involvement of Navy on the day.
 
"Thank you 723 Squadron for your time and thank you for helping everyone concerned," he said.
 
The event concluded without need for the specialist search and rescue skills of the aircrew, which was a success for all concerned, and locals enjoyed the opportunity to see and Navy helicopter up close and chat with the crew.
 
The squadron trains all Navy pilots, aviation warfare officers and aircrew as they undertake conversion training from fixed wing to rotary wing aircraft, in preparation for further training in operational helicopters.