Hamilton Island -The 3rd and Final Chapter :

Lori Velesik FCRCC

Day Four, Monday June 16th… The Big Day…

It was a beautiful morning…at the pre-race meeting we discovered
that the course would be the “normal course”…dispelling fears and
rumors that the wind had come up too much and that we would not be
heading out towards Pentacost Island.
Yeehaw…bring it on!!!

After loading our canoe…the very famous “WOODY”, the “start crew”
said good bye to the rest of our team mates and our extraordinary
coach du jour, Rick Nu’u. They headed off to do some silly
interview for Aussie TV and then boarded the escort boat to start the
stressful wait …

In this 42km Change Race, all canoes/teams start on the line….Men,
Women, Mixed, everyone…a total of 85 crews jockeying for
position. It was crazy. The top crews were positioning themselves
for the best lines considering current flow/tides, etc. As you can
imagine…all the men’s crews were ‘puffing up’, staking their
territory and doing their best to be strategic within a super
competitive field. Our strategy was to actually start BEHIND the
line, on the tail of a very strong men’s crew (Mooloolaba Masters)
that we knew had a great steerer…someone who would not screw up and
cause a disaster in front of you and someone you knew was experienced
in this event. This strategy proved to be a good one. Once the gun
went off, we had a clear run with little or no boat interference at
all….quite a relief.

It was a real competitive dash to the first major turning point…the
south end of Dent Island. It was so exciting…boats
everywhere…paddlers calling…the wind, the waves…AWESOME!!!
We were in racing with a bunch on men’s crews when one hulied just in
front of us, a few hundred meters from the point…a subtle
reminder. The water at this point can get really gnarly and the
trick is to stay as close to the rocks as possible…a bit nerve-
wracking with canoes pressed tight to you and rebound swells tossing
you around but we trusted Sue’s steering and we trusted each other
and just went for it…passing a few men crew in the process….WE
BELIEVE !!!!!!

After the point, there were nice little runners and waves to
catch….shift gears from wave bashing to riding. We had a good run
in through here and made great progress against the other teams
around us. We became aware of the other women around us at this
point too…Kai O’pua and Outrigger Australia.

Sue & the her girls, in WOODY, the green boat, “threading the needle”
between rocks and the coast…a tight
fit but a secret back-eddy river that gave us a sweet
ride…definitely worth the risk ! It was a total chute.
All this before the first
change!!! Gotta love it !!!!

Meanwhile, back on the escort boat, the girls were anxious to see how
we had faired. All the escorts go around the top end of Dent Island
at the start of the race…and they wait…the canoes and escorts
converge at the lighthouse and beyond….LET THE GAMES BEGIN !!!!

We were coming up to the lighthouse, the landmark that signals the
first change for the women. The Men’s landmark was farther up but
crews had already reached that point. THERE WERE ESCORT BOATS
EVERYWHERE !!! IT WAS INSANE !!! If the insurance companies had
any idea what was going on out there……..yikes!!!

I have never seen so many close calls and so many tight drops…boats
swooping in behind and in front of canoes, driving straight down
amongst them…craaazzzyyy…never mind complaining about bad boat
wash, it was everywhere…it was escort boat and canoe soup !!!!…I
guess it was that “Aussie Rules” thing again…anything goes!!!!

Rick and our Escort driver, Phil, tried to do our first change but
had trouble getting in deep enough…in and around like 5 other
canoes…the girls jumped in the water but Sue called the change off
b/c we were being pulled off line too much….a good call by Sue and
no harm done…but pretty sketchy for the girls being tossed around
in the water.
We were successful with all our other drops and changes throughout
the race….no “Cling-Ons, no “Starfish”, no misses, no paddles
kicked out, no bad calls, NO WORRIES !!! (Gotta love it when you
have a zero-error race when it counts the most !!!)
All the ladies did fantastic changes, despite practicing only one day
in Mooloolaba!!! (You ladies make me so
Proud !!!)
At the top of Dent we experienced what we had been warned about…the
men will block any women that try to pass them.
One crew gave us grief…bashing boats, veering all over the place
and at one point their ama ended up on some of the ladies in our
canoe!! It wasn’t until Sue…our calm, tiny, mild mannered
helmswoman…ripped an absolute strip off the guy :
“@$J*!#!*!,C*#!!..”HOLD YOUR LINE !!!!! “, that we were able to pass

After passing South Head, we started the long 10km grind upwind
towards Pentacost Island. It started to get big…REAL BIG…open
ocean…big swells with wind chop…stacking up b/c or the outgoing
tide. We were bashing into the troughs and gettin’ big air at the
front. Personally, I had the most fun stroking a 6 man canoe in my
whole paddling career…doing a double shift into the gnarl. It was
just SICK…I just loved it !!!! Our crew seemed to really excel in
the hardest conditions…we were just eatin’ it up….it was so

We were fighting back and forth the whole way with Outrigger
Australia and Kai O’pua…the lead would change many, many times
between the 3 of us before the day was done….fantastic racing.

After Pentacost came time to shift into big time surf mode…away we
went…Outrigger Australia (OA), who were leading took an inside line
and we followed Kai O’pua (KO) on a more direct line back to
Fitzalan Island. A great call made by Rick as we emerged at
Fitzalan Island with about a 5 boat length lead over O.A.. However,
KO had put a big lead on us too.

Coach Rick took Sue out and put Cheryl into steer now as the water
was flattening out and the currents became more apparent. We knew
that it was gonna be a horses race with lots of hard water to deal
with around the top of Hamilton Island. It was a great call. O.A and
us were battling fiercely towards Plum Pudding Island and heading for
the marina and the finish. The 2 crews were side by side, stroke for
stroke for what seemed like and eternity…UNBELIEVABLE….the 2 crew
were fighting so hard that we were both reeling in KO…then to our
amazement, KO missed a change and only had 5 girls in the boat !!!
We finally passed O.A., and maintained a boat length and we were
right on the heels of KO.

Meanwhile, at the finish line….. the amazing Mooloolaba Open Women

were probably already in the bar celebrating their race victory!!!
They won the race 13 minutes ahead of the rest of us…even after
having hulied !!! WOW… big congrats…and well done Mooloolaba !

It was now a 3 horse race for 2nd, 3rd and 4th place.

This was the most incredible racing after 4 hours of strategy,
currents, different lines, wicked tides, surf, lead changes, chop,
slop and full on intensity…non-stop !!!
I have reviewed the video footage I shot from the escort boat ( like
20 times ! ) in an effort to describe the ensuing end battle as
accurately as possible.

KO turned the buoy first heading in the flat water towards the finish
line in the marina. We turned wide right behind them with OA on the
inside, beside and just behind us. OA turned tightest and started
taking an inside line.
We were on the outside with half a boat length on OA and our nose
along side KO when the first boat bumping occurred.

We were slowed down a bit…no big deal…and continued racing with
each canoe regaining space apart from one another. About 20 second
of full out hammering passed with us gaining on KO…our nose was up
at 3 seat when something happened…KO’s nose was suddenly pointing
at 45 degrees toward our escort boat and the 2 boats were in a major
Most of the girls in both canoes were still paddling madly….there
was a lot of excitement, confusion and shouting going on.
Our team was effectively blocked and could do nothing other than stop
OA took quick advantage of the situation and passed both of us on the
inside and went on to win ‘the battle of the day’ and a well earned
2nd overall placing.
KO straightened out in front of us as our girls got the canoe up and
running again. To the amazement of all of us on the escort watching
this unfold, our girls were regaining ground with every stroke on
KO….but, unfortunately, we simply ran out of room, time and luck.
We crossed the line with our nose at KO’s tail in 4th place over all.

Admittedly, there has been a lot of public controversy as to what
happened at the end of our race…a lot of people with opinions…a
lot of people with “their versions” of what happened even though they
were not even there.
One thing is for certain…the girls that were involved and were
there know what happened…this is all that matters….in the heat of
battle, with intense, fantastic racing, stuff happens….we have
accepted our lot and our place in this.

I speak for my team in saying that we have nothing but respect for
the women of Kai O’pua…it is an honor and a privilege to even be
racing with them and simply phenomenal to be at a level to challenge
them. They have been the inspiration for us and our clubs back home
for years…quite simply they have raised the bar for all of us. For
this, we thank them…Mahalo !

Coming to Australia so “scattered”, from all over the Pacific
Northwest and Hawaii, we had absolutely no expectations of how we
would place or stack up. We did not come looking for medals and
money. We came to race our faces off…we came, not to back down,
but to challenge and to race in every race we could…we came to not
wanting to save anything…we wanted to fully experience Hamilton
Island and all that it offers….and we did…..holy cow ( pun
intended) did we ever !!!!!

We are proud to have been contenders for 2nd place in such a

prestigious event. We are proud of all of our results and the fact
that we gave everthing that we had…every stroke, every race, every
day. We graciously thank Outrigger Australia and Kai O’pua for
giving us “the race of our lives”…it was simply fantastic…we will
never forget it.

This truly was an exerience of a lifetime…12 paddle chicks from all
over…gettin’ it together half way around the world…showing
ourselves, and anyone else who cared to notice, what paddling 110%
for each other can do….It can make boats go fast…. and it can
make friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.

To Cheryl, Tracy, Zoe, Sheila, Kathleen, Justine, Patti, Lori J, Sue,
Linda and Gena…thank you for making a long time idea and dream a
fantastic reality…this adventure was far better that I ever could
have imagined. You are all amazing paddlers and people. You are the
best team mates and friends one could ever have. I, for one, will
never forget.

Mahalo !

I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have had writing
it. I am glad to have our trip and the events recorded if for no
other reason than to relive a wonderful trip and experience in the
future. I hope a few of you out there will be inspired to go and
experience some of the great races our sport has to offers.

…..Dare to dream…….dare to do……Thanks for all your interest
and support…..see you on the water !


Thanks to all of our sponsors for helping us look good and paddle
fast !!!!!

Thanks to all of our friends, family, clubs and coaches for making
this possible :




Finally the much anticipated “Hamilton Island 2003 Part 2”

Lori Velesik FCRCC

Aloha !

My apologies for the delay but work, training and racing seemed to
dominate my life since my return from paradise!!!

First of all, I neglected to fully recount Day 2…forgetting
entirely that we raced OC6 500m sprints about 1.5 hour after
finishing our 16km Iron race. (perhaps on purpose!) Everyone was
pretty pooped and excited after such a fantastic race and effort
around Hamilton Island that it was difficult to refocus, convince
yourself that you are “fresh as a daisy” and get back out on the
sprint course only to blow your wad !!!

We had previously decided to have fun with the sprints, because we
don’t train them, and that perhaps getting some intersquad rivalry
going might be a kick. Our Scatterchicks team was comprised of
exactly 6 Canadians and 6 Americans…Soooooo…Canada vs. USA !!!
(I think the Americans are still bitter about the Hockey !!!)

Both teams raced in the Open category and it was very competitive.
7 heats of 8 boats !!!
To advance, you had to win your heat or have the next single fastest
time to advance to the final.

The Americans were off first…with “Seattle Housewife”, Tracy
leading the Yanks (Gena, Linda, Lori J, Justine and Sue) at a
furious pace…the Americans, wearing their stylish US bandanas,
were no slouches, placing 2nd in their heat….but would there time
be good enough to advance????HHHMmmmm.

The Canadians get in their lane, next to (gulp), the very focused
and large Kai O’pua Open crew…(gulp).
The Canucks (Lori V, Zoe, Kathleen, Patti, Sheila and Cheryl) puffed
up as best as their tired bones could muster (also looking very
stylish in their maple leaf bandanas), only to place 2nd to a very
fast Kai O’Pua team. But how fast were the Canucks???? HHHmmmm

Well in the end neither team was fast enough to advance to the final.
Everyone was actually pretty happy (actually ecstatic !!!) not to
have to race again after such a big day…and it was fun…but the
distance stuff is cooler!!! A cool dip in the pool and food were
more welcome and appealing than racing again after all.

As for the national pride…the Americans bested the Canadians by
about 2 seconds.
Okay, okay…we’ll see ’em back on the ice and see who is top dog!!!!
(Personally, I think the Yanks were conspiring this victory…none
of the Americans raced any OC1 distance the day
before…slackers…saving all their energy…while us Canadians
were out there defending Team honor!!!!! HHHuuummpphhh !!!!

Anyway, back to our regular programming :

Day Three, Sunday June 15th

Welcome to a new event at Hamilton Island…”Total
Chaos” …ooops ” The Bolt Across the Bay” !!!!
Because there were so many teams participating in this 20th
Anniversary event, there was not enough time to run the regular 1000
m Sprint events…too many teams and not enough high tide… you can
walk on the race course at low tide!!!!!

To set you up…imaging a beautiful beach littered with as many 6
man outriggers as the eye can see…people everywhere, dressed in
the latest fashion of the islands….Zena Princess warriors, the
Flinstones, a team of green painted “Hulks”,
women in pajamas and hair rollers, a team wearing only a communal box
(?!?), Chinese princesses in an outrigger decorated as a dragonboat,
angels, Vikings, coconut shell bikini clad divas, men in tuxedos,
women in evening wear and yes of course…..a big herd of cows with
their trusty cowgirl wranglers that just try to keep ’em all in

We decided to do ‘young cows’ and ‘old cows’ so once again our Open
and Masters crews took to the water.
The Masters went first, because they are more experienced than the
young heifers.
It was a start from the beach…everyone is in the boat and guys
hold your canoe…at the gun (actually a real shotgun…damn Aussies
scaring the pies out of the herd !!!! ), the guys push and you are
off. EXCEPT our guy, who is holding our ama, steps in a hole and
pushes up on our ama as he is falling and almost hulis us!!!!

So we hear out on a course that is like a steep triangle…out…90
degree buoy turn…paddle 100m …90 degree buoy turn and then bolt
On this day, we had the biggest water so far…huge and
sloppy…in ‘yer face…hang on to your paddle…hold your breath
kinda fun. We blasted out and took an early lead….then we noticed
how loose the rigging on our front iako was…”what’s that
noise???…ooohhhhh…” woooopsie!!! ( So much for atteneion to
detail huh?!?)

It was a hard, intense race, but in the end the old cows were
victorious.!!!..beating out the Mooloolaba Masters for the prize.
The race was fun and actually served as a good thing to do to
recover from the 2 days of previous hard racing…everyone felt
better after doing this race….ready for the big one tomorrow!!!

So, the youngsters went next and kicked some serious hind quarters
out there!!! The conditions were apparently a bit flatter for the
herd which only seemed to drive them more (hahaha). They had
fantastic buoy turns and finished an impressive
5th in Open out of a competitive field of 45 teams!!! Yeeeehaaaw
girls !!!

All in all, a great day had by all. A fun race, a good recovery day
and great results on the water.
At the end of it all, we had to paddle the boats around to the
Marina side of the Island in preparation for the 42km race the next
day….a nice easy paddle, bashing through just a few more waves to
wind down the day.



Hamilton Island…the story Part 1

Lori Velesik FCRCC

Day One, Friday June 13th

The morning started off with OC1 500 M Sprints.
Sheila, Zoe, and Patti raced in Open and all placed well in their
heats which were highly competitive…”And here comes Lawson from
Canada….really pouring it on now !!!! (the anouncer was having
fun with us Canucks!!!!)

In the Masters, all 5 ladies from our team did very well with 4
making the final. Kathleen Kranenburg finished 10th.
So on the line, 4 out of 8 lanes were occupied by Scatterchicks in
the final…not bad for not training sprints!!!
In the end it was our “Seattle Housewife”, Tracy Landboe, who does
not paddle OC1 and has never sprinted anything in her life who took
the bronze medal!!!! Unbelievable.
Cheryl 5th, Lori V. 6th and Lori Jorgenson 7th.

All in all the sprints were a blast and we all did if for
fun…everyone was glad they did it.

Very shortly after our Maters final, Cheryl and Lori V. were on the
start line for the 8km OC1 race.
140 boats were registered for this event….staggering. Luckily,
they started the men first because the first corner of the race was
pretty rocky with huge current and rough water…. could have
resulted in a huge pile up of wrecked boats.

The race itself was pretty flat but very technical with big tides
and tons of current…like you are on a river. All your marathon
canoe skills start coming into play big time as you are in shallows,
back eddies, shooting out of ‘boiling water”, plotting your courses
to consider the currents and drift…trying at the same time to surf
anything that moved your way.

It was a tight race the whole way…I got a taste of “Aussie Rules”
paddling as I was deliberately driven into a big turning buoy at the
half way mark…no inside line right of way/overlap rules
here!!!!…take ’em out is the name of the game it seems.
Both Cheryl and I got the priviledge of paying her back by beating
her so it was okay!!!!
The last stretch proved critical fighting incoming flood tide and
wind. Both Cheryl and I hugged the rocks…like 2-3 feet
hugging…and ended up scooting past all the women we had fought the
whole way including some chicks from Kai O’pua and Mooloolaba by
working the back eddies and surfing the bumps that came off the
rocks..very exciting and technical.

In the end,me and Cheryl placed 2nd and 3rd in Masters and 3rd and
4th for women over all. We were both thrilled!
(times 51:22 and 51:56 respectively). We were both pretty stoked.

Zoe was the lone Scatterchick in the 16km OC1 race and she had a
blast with rougher conditions by doing the OC6 course in the reverse
direction. Zoe placed 2nd in Open!!! with a time of

Day 2, Saturday June 14th :

Okay…picture 85 womens boats on a start line…WOW. Because there
were so many boats, they started the Open women first and then the
Masters started about 3 minutes later.
We had decided to do this race as Open and Masters
Sheila, Zoe, Linda, Patti, Gena and Sue were the Open Team.
Lori V, Tracy , Lori J., Kathleen, Justine and Cheryl were the
Masters Team.

This recollection is from the “Masters Crew
perspective”because…that is where I was…., it was a fantastic
race with every condition out there to challenge you. It was not as
big as we had expected which was a bit disappointing but it was
still way bigger than home.

Starting 3 minutes behind the Opens was fantastic because we were
reeling in boats one after another the whole way…you knew you were
doing well when the teams became tougher and tought to pass. We has
a few costly boat collisions that locked us up for a while and ran
over a healthy sized rock with our hull unfortunately.
At the last turn, 10 minutes out we could hardly believe we were
passing Kai O’Pua’s Open Crew!!! We surfed passed them!!!
We had one more battle with a crew which we won and crossed the
finish line with about 5 boats ahead of us.
We had no idea who was who or what category they were out there.
We did not learn until the medal presentation that night that we had
not only won Masters but because of the 3 minute time gap inbetween
Open and Masters, we were actually the 2nd fastest crew out of 85
boats, behind Moloolooba Open Crew (who are so on fire and are going
to win Molokia this year easily!!!)
To top it all off with icing….we broke the course record for
Masters !!!!!!

Our Open Crew has a strong finish placing 11th in the Open category
out of 53 canoe!!!!. They had many good battles out there in a
really competitive field paddling our friend “Woody”….an older
training boat on loan to us from Outrigger Australia…the
It was a tough, hard, demanding race for both crews and everyone was
feeling it…it was awesome!

That is it for day #1 and day #2….
Day 3 and 4 to follow shortly I hope.

Lori Velisek