The Classic turns 40 in 2016. Collectively over the leadup 39 years' events, paddlers have travelled over 1.5 million river kilometres.
In 1977, members of the NSW Outward Bound Ex-Students Association organised a canoe race along the river they had paddled during their OB course. Apart from the challenge, the 111km race was going to help the community by raising money for medical research.
That first race attracted 250 paddlers and raised $8,500. At its peak the race has attracted more than 600 paddlers and raises annually in excess of $350,000.
Over the years, records have been set and broken time and again. The fastest time outright stands at 7 hours 11 minutes and 7 seconds, set in 1985 by Garry Byrne, Grant Hughes, Cameron Tunbridge and Brett Worth in a K4.
John Harmer is the only paddler from the original 250 starters in 1977 who has completed every race since then. He assures everyone he will be on the starting line for his 40th Classic this year. He is followed by Brian Lyon with 36 finishes. Greg Thompson and Richard Barnes both clocked up their 35th Classics last year.
The race was originally run overnight to take advantage of the calmer weather conditions and the lighter traffic on the river. It also allowed the slower paddlers to make those last painful strokes in daylight. What the organisers did not realise when they made this decision was that the beauty and magic of paddling in moonlight would far outweigh any of their practical reasons for running the event overnight.
The race is held annually on the last weekend in October. The weather at this time of year is generally more stable, with reasonably long daylight hours. Hundreds of volunteers work hard throughout the night to help maintain the excellent safety record that has been achieved by the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic.