A fantastic weekend at Lake Rotoiti, with perfect weather conditions and more than two hundred paddlers from as far afield as Hawaii and the UK enjoying a memorable Tuna e Hoe Ana. We will hopefully get a photo gallery together in the next few days as the pictures come in to us.
Friday saw the Maitahi organisers mobilise in numbers, with three trailers full of waka, barbecues, signage, tents, chairs, dinner plates and all sorts of other goodies heading to St Arnaud. The admin and timing crew were delayed by having to stop in Wakefield and herd some sheep who had wandered onto the road, which constituted some last minute practice for the nature of their registration and timing duties.
As ever, there were some last-minute glitches. The TDC harbourmaster had to withdraw from attending as he had a problem with his boat trailer and our main safety boat wasn’t able to come until Saturday as our good pal Jason Hulena was not only dealing with a close family bereavement but a sick child (big thanks to him for coming on Saturday).
That left Linda Heath’s fine sons, Zane and Campbell, in a small boat to set all the course markers under the capable direction of Sean Timoney. Getting to the lake nice and early set the template for the whole event : at no point in the two days did we ever fall behind schedule. Registration, briefings, race starts, timings and every other component were on time and we ultimately enjoyed the unusual luxury of finishing early on both days.
The early morning Nelson rain on Friday gave way to a beautiful afternoon and evening on the lake. Aaron Hemi led our opening karakia and the racing got underway.
Entries for singles and doubles were higher than ever, with 16 waka on the course for the women’s race, 24 for the men’s and the best sight of all was 7 V1 and an OC1 heading out to race in the rangatahi race. Seven of those came from Motueka who have a thriving rangatahi programme that is the gold standard for our region.
The evening concluded with a double rainbow welcoming the final waka over the line followed by the waka community flooding the Alpine Lodge and causing a log jam of pizza orders. Crews from around the South Island – from around the world actually – were mingling and carb loading together.
Saturday dawned cool, clear and with a beautiful mist hanging above the water. By the time the women’s racing had finished that had burnt off and the rest of the day was warm and fine. The battles and performances throughout the day were enthusiastically followed by a large group of spectators on the beach and the new course layout seemed to meet with the approval of everyone, even if it took the Race Director several briefings to draw the lines in the right place.
On the water highlights really are too many to mention but for me the standout was the rangatahi racing. Intermediates who were barely poking their heads above the gunwales steering their own waka without fear and with a great degree of skill. Maitahi OCC had two of its own Intermediate crews on the water, Nga Iti Tangata and Urutira Tū, and by next year we fully expect that they will be paddling without any adult in the waka. As it was they paddled brilliantly and, as those who have been there on Friday sessions will attest, their politeness, kindness and general behaviour were a credit to the club.
Racing finished 45 minutes earlier than planned, giving most of those at the lake time to pack up all the gear ( MOCC in full-on community mode meaning it was done in record time) and get off for a shower before heading to Rotoiti Hall for dinner.
And this is the point at which the thanks have to begin. We had more than 230 people for dinner and this was the first time for many years that we had not used our excellent outside caterers. Having been faced with a choice between significant entry fee increases or changing the way we do the dinner, Jason Daughtrey (pictured left) stepped in with a solution. He would cook for everyone ! And what a job he did. Ably assisted in the kitchen all day by Morag and Pui and then by a dedicated group of Hine Tahi kitchen hands to serve and clean up, he delivered a meal that blew us away. The curries, breads, salad and dessert were superb and everyone said it was as good a post race meal as they have ever enjoyed.
The awards ceremony went off without a hitch and special mention to Damian Hardman who deservedly took the President’s award for his years of unheralded work organising the Sunday social crews and novice race crews.
I’m wary of starting to mention people by name as I inevitably miss someone out who deserves credit but I’m going to put my neck on the block and name some names.
The whole race committee, including one of the driving forces, Kilmeny Stephens, who couldn’t be there this year as she was running 50km (not a typo !!) at Tarawera and Graham Mahuika who was also absent as he was doing a fantastic job of supporting young women’s rugby in the region.
The Admin and Timing team was led by Karen, Katie and Eva. Judith, as well as having to put up with me moaning about entry forms, spent every minute in the rego tent with them. Katie also had the thankless task of organising trophies and the awards ceremony and Eva not only did the tough timing job but also the volunteers and Red Deer bookings.
Lynda Cooper gave up her whole day to look after the delicious BBQ, ably assisted by sous-chefs Lida and Al.
Sean Timoney looked after safety as well as paddling around the lake 50 times and Zoe Horvath negotiated the labyrinth of entry payments, equipment hire and all the other financial stuff that is beyond the ken of mere mortals. Jeff Neilson, as ever, gave up a lot of time and energy filling in all the gaps and providing the answer to every question of “Where does this go ?”. Jeff’s trailer of course.
And thanks to every club member who filled in and did a volunteer job. That includes friends from other clubs, and family members like Julie’s mum and Dad and Seb’s mum. Without you the event simply would not function.
And finally, before I lurch into Oscar winner territory and start weeping and thanking the doctor who delivered me, thanks to all the team organisers and paddlers who gave up their time to support TEHA and the previous organisers and committees on whose foundations the 2023 event was built.
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.