THERE were blisters and back pains, but an enormous feeling of satisfaction for a team of 49 paddlers from The Armidale School, PLC Armidale and New England Girls’ School who braved a moonless night and incoming tides in the 40th Hawkesbury Canoe Classic over the weekend.&nbsp; Forty four of the paddlers completed the gruelling 111km overnight race from Windsor to the Brooklyn Bridge, with second-time paddlers Oscar Alcorn and Jim Orr crossing the line first for TAS in a time of 11 hours, 32 minutes and 18 seconds. “We were very motivated to try and beat our time from last year, so we tried to cut down our stoppage times at the major checkpoints and never stopped moving by having one person paddling whilst the other one ate. Doing the paddle last year greatly assisted with navigation and knowing where to go with times and how to make the most of the tide,” said Oscar. Finishing just 10 minutes behind were last year’s first placegetters Liam Donaldson and Sebastian Scott, whose goal of breaking a record in their third Hawkesbury was dashed 4km in. “When our rudder bolt snapped and we began careering to one side of the river our hearts sank. We watched in despair as every boat in the race passed by us, and it took around 50 minutes to meet our land crew and attach a new rudder,” said Sebastian. “We gave it everything we had, counting the boats we passed and keeping our stops as short as possible. To look back and think on what we could have accomplished with the hour that we lost” Next home in 13:45:20 were two father/student combinations, Andrew Kirk and son Nicholas, and TAS Old Boy Greig Stier and daughter Chloe from PLC. Year 10 students Ben Louis and Sam Wright ploughed through the water, finishing in 13:58:30, while Stockley Warton paddled solo, his 18:18:48 an achievement in self-motivation and discipline. It was the first time there were TAS girls to participate, and Olivia Fenwicke and Georgie O’Brien made history for the school in 18:10:27. “It was the most physically demanding thing I’ve ever done, but also the most rewarding – when we crossed the line it was just be the best feeling ever,” said Olivia. “The worst part was between four and six in the morning when you’re battling sleeplessness, but Georgie and I, and other paddlers we were with at different times, kept each other motivated to the end.” Almost 500 paddlers entered this year’s race, which is a major fundraiser for the Arrow Bone Marrow Foundation.