THE late withdrawal of Woolgoolga Masters surfboat crew member Gary Bell threw the team's Woodstock surfcraft carnival preparations into chaos.
Champions in their division for the past six years, the chances of winning title number seven weren't looking good according to crew member Trevor Clark.
"We had to bring my nephew Jason into the team at late notice and it only left a week for the new crew to train together so we weren't all that confident," Clark said.
As it turned out he had no cause for concern.
Woolgoolga's crew of Trevor and Jason Clark, Craig Schweikert, Dennis Crossley and sweep Wayne Bailey stormed through the heats and semi-finals unbeaten.
They were quick off the mark in the final and by the turning cans had established a 15 metre lead which they held until the finish beating Soldiers Beach and Coolum.
For Bailey and Trevor Clark it was a moment to savour as they have been in this crew for all seven wins.
Despite the comfortable winning margin, Clark said it is always a relief to cross the finishing line.
"On many occasions in the past at State and national titles Woolgoolga have held race-winning leads only to be denied at the last minute by crews catching waves from behind," he said.
"We aren't supposed to do it but at times you just can't resist having a peek to see where the other crews are."
Woolgoolga will now return to a three days a week training schedule in preparation for a busy season of competition which begins in January and ends with the State and national titles at Umina and Kurrawa in March.
Conducted by Coffs Harbour Surf Life Saving Club, the 31st annual surfcraft carnival proved an outstanding success with club president Tony Mutkins 'over the moon.
"Everything went without a hiccup with the carnival attracting more than 1100 competitors for the surfboat and craft events," Mutkins said.
"We conducted 166 surfboat races in a small swell and perfect weather."