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If only Port Macquarie could have picked which alley they didn't want for their quarter-final at the Ocean Thunder Surfboat Series at Dee Why Beach on November 19.
The Quokkas claimed four second-place finishes out of six starts in an impressive first-round effort at the elite open-age rowing carnival.
It just so happened that the two times they bombed out were when they drew alley one, which quickly became known as 'Death Alley' amongst all the boaties.
That's the alley they drew for the quarter final.
Port Macquarie crew member Nikki Stafford said despite all the challenges, it was an improved effort on their inaugural appearance at the carnival last year.
"The higher up you finish, you get to pick your alley, and the best alley at Dee Why is at the other end. But we were right out in the open," she said.
"But that's surfboats. Whatever alley you're drawn in you've got to put up with and our goal is to go one step better next time."
Their third-place finish from 12 in the quarter-final, was behind Avoca Beach and Currumbin. Both are previous national champions.
"We're no-one compared to these big surf clubs; they mean business when you turn up, but we like being the underdogs," she said.
Wauchope-Bonny Hills' Boatettes also fell foul of alley one in their first appearance at Ocean Thunder, but sweep Steve Monaghan was full of praise for his crew who normally compete in the under-23 girls' division.
"If you got alley one in the afternoon (on Saturday) you were saying your prayers and saying 'please don't hit me', which rarely worked," he said.
"Port Macquarie got it and then in the last race we got it and bombed out. They were calling it 'Death Alley' because you ended up with a boat full of water and you just can't catch anyone after that."
Port Macquarie finished 10th overall while Wauchope-Bonny Hills were 12th. Both crews faced a challenging swell.
"Some of the waves were scary; they were probably five or six foot and then the wind got up which made it a bit crazy," Monaghan said.
"It got a bit bouncy with some of the swell. All in all, we were there to compete, but also not push the limits so we had to be sensible about it."
Monaghan said the key learning for his crew was that the margin for error at elite level was minimal.
"You can't make mistakes and every little opportunity that comes by you've got to make the most of it," he said.
"I'm just very, very proud, but everyone's going to improve in the next round, especially if it's flat.
"Those [stronger] girls really motor so we're praying for a little bit of bump; just not as big as last time. It helps us out for sure."
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