Race Director Interviews

This summer interviews were held by our Volunteer Coordinator Melissa Tang with several of our Race Directors to help provide to some additional information behind the familiar faces we see on the CORA race circuit.

Interview with Jan Chavarie, Race Director, Jericho Iron

Background on Jericho Paddling Club:
Jericho was established about 30 years ago with a group of paddlers from FCRCC who wanted to form a new club, and now we have 68 full-time members. We started off with a Malia canoe, then we purchased calmars, then added two mirages, and now we have an Unlimited. We’ve been based out of Jericho Sailing Centre since then, and they have been a great supporter of our club.

How did you get involved in paddling?
I started off with dragon boat back in the 90’s (as many paddlers did) with the Dragon Canoe Club. After a few years in voyageurs and dragonboats, we purchased an OC6 for cross-training. I discovered paddling using both sides of my body and that was it!

What do you get out of being on the water?
Being on the water allows me to take time from it all. It’s a mental break, a stress reliever. It keeps me grounded.

What is the best part of race day, as a race director?
Both the start of the day and the end of the day. At the start of the day, you know that it’s “What will be, will be”. Not more planning, just go with it. At the end of the day – it’s all over!!

What is your favourite all time event?
The Cook Islands!

Mike Jordan, a long time member who passed away earlier this month – any words?
Mike was a great person, and everyone has only had kind words to say about. He started out as a flatwater paddler in the East, and then moved here. He was a Jericho Club member for over 20 years. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with lung cancer a year ago, and it all progressed so quickly – it has all just been very sad to us. At this year’s Jericho Iron, just before the Men’s race, we had a remembrance ceremony dedicated to him.

Interview with Vivian Thomas, Race Director, Island Iron

Tell me a bit about the race. How long have you guys been organizing this for?
I actually learnt this week that the first Island Iron was in 1996, and it was organised by ORPC. They wanted to practice paddling in rougher water, so they decided to take the race to Cadboro Bay. it is rougher water along the backsides of Discovery Channel, and Baynes Channel is always rough because that’s where tides and currents meet.

Would you say this year was one of the roughest?
It was a little bit annoying because we’re always going against the waves or the wind, so we didn’t really catch a break until the backside of the Channel, which was more than ¾ of the race course. It was nice to have a little bit of a break, but [when] crossing Baynes Channel, the waves were ama-side, and the combination of wind and waves made it quite challenging. So my Seat 5 stayed left for an extended period of time, and my Seat 4 stayed on the huli rope for an extended period of time.

Is it always the same course?
Yes, it’s around the same [course], but sometimes we’ll change directions based on conditions. Safety is a very big priority with this race.

How did you get into paddling?
I started with dragon boating, and my coach, at the end of the season, said that outrigger was a good thing to try if we wanted to stay fit through the fall/winter. There were maybe 4 of us from the dragon boat team that decided to try it, and I was hooked!

How long ago was that?
I started in 2004, so I cannot believe how quickly the time goes. I no longer dragon boat. This is a bit more fun. You surf and you can catch waves… It’s not as hard on your body, and it’s easier to get good glide, good blend.

How did you get into steering?
I wanted to try it, and I like the challenge. And I can control the course of the boat!

How does it feel being a Race Director?
This is my first year doing it, so safety is really important. We have Julie [Kippen] who deals with all the safety issues, and she’s done [this race] a few times. And of course, Cindy [Wright] has been very helpful as well with the safety aspect of the race course. We also had some people who volunteered to do the food, which is great because that’s huge as well! Our biggest costs with this race are safety and food.

So once the race is over, do you get a breather after?
Yes, but gotta send in the results.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Island Iron is a great race, and one of the best in the CORA Cup circuit. It will be up when we host it again in 2020 – would like to see lots more teams! We alternate hosting Island Iron with Comox Valley.

First Moloka’i Hoe Experience

By Jim Farintosh – 1st time paddler with CanadaAnuenueKaa – 60+ crew, member of Pickering Rouge Canoe Club (in Pickering) and the Outer Harbour Dragon Boat Club (in Toronto), ON.

The road to Hale O Lono harbour on Moloka’i Island is the first challenge. It is Sunday, October 7th at 6am, still dark and hundreds of dust-covered cars and trucks snake their way down a rough, rut-filled dirt road to the ocean. Like the famous Field of Dreams closing scene, they come – drawn by the special day ahead. In our van I am surrounded by determined men who know a lot more about what is to come on this day than I. I don’t say much – I am lost in my thoughts and very aware of the challenge before me. This is the Moloka’i Hoe, the most important men’s outrigger race in the world and I have been given the opportunity to compete with a top age-class crew and a legendary steersman. Nothing really needs to be said.

I am as ready as I can be, with the preparation time that I was given. I have paddled close to 1000 km on Lake Ontario over the past 8 weeks and much of it at higher intensity than normal. My body has groaned in protest, but I have learned how to manage the warning signs of over-training – I will deal with them after it is over. I have to be ready for 41 miles of open ocean racing for six hours, with water changes every 30 minutes or less. This is the Moloka’i Hoe.

Our team is made up of seven Canadians: Bob, Garry, Ken and Peter from BC, Francis and Alex from Quebec and myself, the lone Ontarian. We are joined by four Hawaiians from the Oahu Anuenue outrigger club: Cappy, Doc, Gaylord and the legendary Nappy who is doing his 55th consecutive crossing. Our final member John, hails from Australia. Other than Francis and I, these men are all veterans in doing the crossing and their experience and support is invaluable to me. This is uncharted water in my life and I am very thankful for their presence and confidence.

On Friday, we fly from Oahu to Moloka’i on a short commuter prop plane right over the water we will paddle on Sunday. “A one way ticket, please”. Next day we went down to Hale O Lono harbour to rig the Anuenue boat – Anona (named after Nappy’s wife), and give it a test run. This small, volcanic, rock-strewn harbour is crammed with over a hundred outriggers and I am surrounded by the best ocean racers in the world. Everyone is here and it is an amazing sight. Kai Bartlett, Danny Ching, Mike Judd, The Foti brothers, Ross Flemer – everyone. The defending champion Tahitian Shell Va’a team is trying for their seventh consecutive win and they are meticulous in their preparation and confident in their chances. They are all very young – their steersperson is going for his 7th win and he is 24! They are staying in the same hotel as Cathy and I back in Oahu and I had a chance to chat with them all. Good guys (I’m a total fan, I got all their autographs). At the harbour I am grateful for some things to do to keep me busy as we unload and watch Nappy rig the boat. It has to be done perfectly and Nappy does the task slowly to his satisfaction. He will do the race “iron”, and he has to be sure that everything is as he wants it. The ocean conditions and race demand no less.

Race day, 7:15am. After all the last minute logistics are completed, there is a group prayer and regardless of religious beliefs there is a common bond among the athletes wishing for safe passage and a good day. The conditions are not favorable, we have high heat and humidity, volcanic fog (known as vog), unfavorable tidal currents and unfortunately a south-west cross-head wind that will be in our faces all day – not the expected trade winds favorable for surfing. It will be a long, tough slug-fest, but so be it. No one is going home – this is Moloka’i Hoe.

I have been chosen to paddle first, so I have the privilege of lining up with the most incredible start field I will ever see. Over a hundred outriggers are on the line and Nappy decides to take an outside position on the start. The tension is high and like a pack of crazed hounds, we are off.

The pace is astounding – the crews blast off as if the race is only one mile. It is flat-out in intensity and there is no regard for the remainder of the day, it’s all about early position. Each crew has a support motor boat with the remaining team mates aboard and they are held behind the OC6’s for the first 45 minutes, so they sit behind the field waiting for their chance to come up through the boats and make the first change. Sure enough, as we reach the end of the island of Moloka’i and head into the Kaiwi channel, the motor boats roar by, which adds to the chaos of waves, effort and emotion. We have been paddling at 64 strokes per minute for 50 minutes and I am ready for the first change. I look up and our team mates are swimming in a line, waiting to pull themselves aboard and take the torch. Some of my biggest doubts centre around the water changes, as this is new territory for me. No time to think, screw it – just do it.

Out I go, leg partially caught on the apron, but now I am clear and swimming for the support boat as we try to recover from the effort. Into the support boat, quickly collect myself, listen to feedback as to pace and execution, grab a water…and then another. Time to re-fuel, then a few minutes to rest, check everything and watch the boys in the boat pounding away on our behalf. We are doing really well and pretty sure we are close to the lead in our age group. Soon enough the five minute warning is given and I get ready to jump back in the ocean. Forget sharks, motor boat props, everything…just do it. We line up treading water and Nappy expertly brings the boat up so we just miss the ama. Only an instant to grab the side and haul yourself in. Adrenaline is flowing, it’s basically one chance or you screw up the whole boat. I did OK on the first change, not the best, but it got the job done. Bail like hell (I am in seat four, my responsibility) then back in stroke with a vengeance.

And so it went, again and again and again…every thirty minutes we repeated the process. Each thirty minutes, a race within a race. The water changes improve, I’m feeling better about that. Soon the vog covers all ability to see land, so we are out in the middle of the ocean with no point of land in sight, just the support boat to guide us. Trust is everywhere, it really is a team effort. Nappy is amazing, the whole package of intensity, skill, endurance and stability. I truly wish that we had some downwind conditions so he could really do his thing, but it was not meant to be. All that matters is the next 30 minutes…

Time stands still and the day never ends, but eventually off to the right the easterly point of Oahu looms. I have been warned that we still have a huge chunk of the race ahead of us, so the mental game of watching an “immovable” point of land begins. Hydration is huge and despite constant drinks and electrolyte tablets, the fingers start to cramp…I am not alone with this challenge. And still we pound away at over 60 strokes a minute, doing our best to get connection on every stroke. I thought of how many times I have implored my athletes back home to stay “open, tall and connected” and now I was taking a massive dose of my own medicine.

Diamond Head looms, but it takes forever, the scale of distance is deceiving. But I know that Waikiki Beach starts after that and Duke’s Beach is the finish. We are down to 20 minute changes now and if anything the effort intensifies as we get closer. A final challenge from a crew beside us, younger and confident they can pass the old guys. Nappy steers us over to the reef off Diamond Head and starts to slide down the back side of the 10 to 12 foot waves that are building just feet to our right. His angled path gives us a shot of speed and the challenge disappears…he is amazing. Final change coming up, the rest of the boys will finish the race with us in the motor boat…we started, they finish. A final dog fight with two other crews and they hold off the challenge by seconds…we are really pumped for them, despite the exhaustion. A right turn and straight to the beach. Crowds, music, jubilation, totally spent. I pick up the belongings for the crew and start over to the beach looking like I have been to war . . . wait, I have been to war.

I sit down and two women reward my effort with leis of flowers and shells, really nice. Cath comes up visibly relieved that I am back and OK. A hug I will remember. Beer, food, beer, pictures, beer, satisfied silence and beer. We hear our result that we finished 43rd out of 100 finishers and 2nd in our age group by two minutes to a Hawaiian crew, really close. Chat about where we could have made up two minutes, but respect for the competition and the effort put forth by everyone. Shell Va’a wins number 7, they are legends now.

The rest of the trip was fun and now Cath and I are back home, life gets back to normal very quickly. Lots to do in the present, but the memory of this race will stay with me for a long time. It will nourish me over the winter months and motivate me when I think of future goals. I thank my team mates for the opportunity and realize that life is all about doing your best every day. On this day, Moloka’i Hoe demanded my best.

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat!


Vaka Eiva Final Day

Jan – Jericho

The final day of racing was all Sprints and all fun. This was a change in the order of events from previous years, which wrapped up with the change race. In past years, there were too many paddlers tired, bruised and beaten up from the change race to really enjoy the closing party. Not this year!

Held at beautiful Muri Lagoon, the day started with a parade of paddlers, led by local traditional drummers, warriors and canoes. Then, the somewhat serious sprints began. Crews raced by club and age category and were honest – for most part. Lots of teams filled up crews with whoever they could get. The race course was a straight 500m. from the ocean side of the lagoon towards the beach. It was quickly obvious that there were a lot of steers that did not know how to race sprints – as crews crossed one or more lanes to get to the finish line – all the more fun for spectators. The more serious crews advanced to the final heats. For the rest of us – the party had an early start.

After the race finals, there were a bunch of fun events – fun to participate in and to watch: SUP relay (with and without paddles), the underwear exchange (you’ll have to wait for pictures), piggyback race in the lagoon with kids, and the Fly the Ama challenge. The winning crew in that event made it look truly easy as they just popped that ama up and kept paddling for another minute or two.

The closing party began with an amazing dinner. It was all served on hand-woven plates of palm leaves and included many traditional dishes and local food. The drink was iced coconut water, fresh out of the shells. It was all beautiful to look at and delicious too. There were speeches and thanks made, then it was drinking and dancing time. While there was a deck to dance on, there wasn’t room for everyone, so most of the dancing took place on the beach – under the stars, and into the water. A great wrap up to a great week. Highly recommend Vaka Eiva for any crew planning to do an international event.

We’ll get some photos here as soon as we can! Or, shall I say – as soon as I stop shivering…. From 29 one day, to 2 degrees the next. Ah well – all totally worth it