2006 – 12th Annual World Sprints in Lake Karipiro, New Zealand
- Bronze in Golden Master’s V1 500m – John Roberts, Calgary.
- Bronze in the 500m V12 Golden Master Men combo Canada/New Zealand team
Waka Ama 2006 was paddling at its
finest. Great competition, a good venue, and the special camaraderie
that develops between paddlers in a race situation were highlights of
the session. Added bonus: Canada doubled its medal score over the 2004
Hilo event. John Roberts repeated his win in the 500m V1, bringing home
another bronze, and a Canada/New Zealand team of Golden Master Men won
bronze in the 500m V12 event, bringing our medal total to 2.
Medals aside, there were a lot of
personal bests during this event, and a Canadian record, set by Brian
Webster in the V1-500 Open Men’s event. Brian came home in 02:22.14, to
set a new mark for local paddlers.
If you had to describe the Lake Karipiro
event in one word, that word would have to be ‘busy’. Canada’s team was
small – fewer than 35 paddlers, including two adaptive paddlers from
the Sunshine Coast. Canada did not field an adaptive team this year, so
Din and Sarah won their special medals with the Italian adaptive team,
then switched jerseys and paddled with the Canadian team. Only the
Golden Master paddlers were able to field full teams in their event.
Open, Master and Senior Master events were all mixed age groups, with
seniors finding themselves in some surprising combinations. The bottom
line was, everyone raced, and if a group of senior paddlers found
themselves in an open event, it was still a great experience.
The meet venue, Lake Karipiro, is half
an hour south of Hamilton, on New Zealand’s North Island. Getting to the
venue from team accommodations meant driving in a shuttle – Brian
Webster and Sheila Kuyper did yeoman service coping with driving on the
‘other side’ (we quickly learned not to call it the ‘wrong’ side) of the
road. Sheila’s performance throughout the meet was extraordinary. Aside
from driving (and the disadvantage to a 9-passenger bus is that you
have 8 back seat drivers) Sheila took on the responsibility of making up
teams, to ensure the strongest possible teams for each event, and to
provide opportunities for every participant to paddle. All this was in
addition to her own races, and while she didn’t medal, she was hot on
the heels of the hardware winners. As a novice steerer, she did a superb
job in guiding the V6s around the course.
Events were held on a 500m course, but
the 1000m and 1500m events used only half the course, with a turn at the
250m mark, adding up to three turns in the 1000m races and five in the
1500m. From the spectators’ point of view, it was a much more exciting
race and in many cases technique on the turns almost cancelled out power
on the straight-of-way.
Weatherwise, there was a bit of
everything. The races started off on a clear, sunny day, with calm
water. From there it evolved to foggy mornings that delayed the race
starts, pouring rain that almost obscured the buoys at the end of the
course and sent literal rivers of water churning through the team tents,
to howling winds strong enough to raise 8-12″ waves running diagonally
across the course. Those winds also shifted one of the turn buoys and
when course officials attempted to re-set the marker, several other
buoys were also nudged out of place, resulting in closing down the races
for the rest of the day to make course corrections. That left several
hours worth of races to catch up on over the next two days, but race
officials managed to do it. Efficient marshalling, fast starts, quick
turnarounds and co-operative racers made it work.
The race course volunteers were
wonderful. In between races they loaded and unloaded crews, bailed
boats, and always had time for a cheery greeting. New Zealanders have to
be among the world’s most friendly people, and Kiwi volunteers were the
pick of the crop.
With Waka Ama ’06 behind us, it’s time
now to concentrate on the racing season ahead of us, and to begin
planning for Canada’s turn on the world stage, when we host the 2012
World Outrigger Sprints at Penticton.
~ Florida Town