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Pepper (49) was brought up and lived in Auckland before making the move south to Wanaka seven years ago.
Pepper, a professional sailor, spent much of his year hard at work in Europe or the United States.
Covid-19 has put that plan on the back foot but has also opened up the chance to improve on last year’s impressive effort in the Coast to Coast.
He surprised himself in finishing 28th in the longest-day category and fourth in the 40-49 age group in 2020.
"This year I just want to better my performance from last year.
"I think I had a time of 13.25 [13hr 25min] and I would love to think I could break 13 hours. But we will just have to see what happens on the day," he said.
A group of Wanaka competitors was heading north to the course today for a few days of training including running over Goat Pass, and paddling in the Waimakariri River.
The Coast to Coast will be held on February 13.
“I was actually really stoked with how I did last year, finishing in the top 30 and fourth in my age group," Pepper said.
“Exercise has always been a really big part of my life. I love it and hate it, but I need exercise to survive, really.
"Living in a place like Wanaka there’s no excuses not to be able to get out and train.”
Pepper, who went to four Olympics but did not medal, has also been able to utilise the coaching expertise of Wanaka-based Tim Brazier this year.
Pepper owns the RaD Car Hire Queenstown business and that keeps him busy most of the time, although he does get out on Lake Wanaka with his Moth 14 yacht.
A member of the Wanaka Yacht Club, Pepper said he enjoyed getting out on to the lake and club members were also keen to get him on their yachts to lend his expertise.
He is not involved in this summer’s America’s Cup series in Auckland. He will be watching closely what happens in Auckland but the Coast to Coast will be grabbing his attention for the nest few weeks.
“It’s just the iconic one, really. It’s known all over the world and it’s one of those things that’s been on the bucket list.
"It’s called the longest day for a reason.
“I love the journey. You can have a faster boat and faster bike but at the end of the day it’s just you and the race.”