After 48 hours of anguish over predicted severe weather conditions, Picton turned on the sunshine for the ever popular Portage race. Things had got off to a great start on Thursday with a very swift de-rig and loading session as Maitahi and Te Tai O Aorere joined forces to get three MOCC and one TTOA waka loaded onto the big trailer and all the ama and a couple of smaller vessels onto the singles trailer.
Jeff Neilson did the hard yards with the big trailer – via a nice lunch break at Pelorus cafe – while the Barretts took the small trailer (not too bad a job on the way there but it was a tricky ride back on Saturday in strong winds).
Despite weather warnings including very strong winds, Saturday early morning dawned calm, cold and with bright blue skies. The Maitahi line up saw Kotahitanga in Nga Iti Tangata, Nga Manu Whaitiri in Mangoripi and Krakenz in Tuhirangi. But that wasn’t the full extent of Maitahi involvement : Sean Timoney and Evan Hodson got onboard their singles, Fi Lankshear paddled with Motueka, Zoe Horvath and Robyn Dewson with Waikawa, Dean Young and Tristan Brotherton with a Christchurch team and we can claim a bit of Glenn Hardinge even though he was paddling for TTOA. Also a mention for Jason Hulena who was back on the water after 2 years of health issues, steering Waikawa men.
The briefing by Andrea was refreshing as ever. Basic race information and the message that as adults we were responsible for our own safety measures out on the water. This year saw the introduction of ocean rowing sculls to the line up but the largest contingent was waka ama, with around a dozen W6 out on the start line.
Just as the last surf ski went past the start line at Mabel Island, the start boat gave a rapid countdown and go which seemed to take a few crews by surprise. Krakenz had determined to do an 80% sprint start so we got away nicely and were leading the pack for the fist couple of kilometres to Torea Bay inlet. The wind had picked up a bit by now and was gusting, which was why my steering was a bit wonky (get your excuses in early). We kept pace with the two Motueka crews (the first including Todd, Callum and a few strong young fellows and the second the carbon Puakea with more young guys onboard) and turned in third place at the head of the bay with Waikawa just behind.
The waka were in the same positions as we headed back out into Queen Charlotte Sound but on the long stretch towards Grove Arm Krakenz dug in in the teeth of a fierce headwind, dropping Waikawa and passing Mot’s carbon waka. By now we were in unfamiliar distance territory as our sprint training programme hadn’t seen us paddle more than 2km in one go ! A smooth turn and a traverse across the channel, with a few nice wave runs, saw as head back towards Picton secure in second but unable to make any further inroads into the lead boat. We finished tired but happy with our paddle.
Nga Manu were battling with Waikawa in the women’s race and arrived at the finish line having to concede first place but very happy with the way they had paddled. Kotahitanga, with a couple of late replacements, had a steady race and arrived back at the finish line looking smooth and smiling broadly.
In the singles Sean Timoney took out the winner’s prize.
A whole lot of happy but very tired paddlers made the trip back to Nelson after the fun prize-giving at Le Cafe but we arrived back in the cold and dark and were relieved that we didn’t need to re-rig until next morning. Another great outing for Maitahi and some really good collaboration on logistics with our friends at TTOA. Thanks to Andrea and all the other volunteers who made it such a great day.
Its never too early or too late to start paddling waka ama
We always welcome new members to the Maitahi Outrigger Canoe Club.
We have social and racing waka ama crews catering for a wide variety of ages and abilities.