Vaka Eiva Day 2

Jan – Jericho

The races begin with OC1 and V1 events. For the non-racers, it’s market day and we all head down there early to stock up on fresh fruit, coffee and maybe just a few souvenirs. And yes, it is hot (29) and sunny again….

There’s not many personal canoes on the island (maybe 50?) and they are in all shapes and sizes (bout 50/50 for OC1 and V1). Conditions are breezy and a bit wild. Wind is coming from the NE, not the expected direction so it means a lot of side swell for the racers. For this race, all paddlers must wear the sponsor jersey. It makes it hard to pick out paddlers when they are all wearing red!

The first race of the day is men’s Masters and Senior Masters. No Canucks in this one, with Nappy Napoleon being the best known paddler to us. The race leaves the harbour, heads up the coast to Matavera, around a buoy and back – total 12 km. The Aussies take this event, Nappy finishes very respectfully mid-pack, and one canoe and paddler had to be rescued as he hit the reef and broke his (wooden) iakus. Luckily he only got got one bad scrape on the ankle.

Ladies next (open, masters, snr masters) and this is the biggest race with almost all available canoes on the water. Lilliana B. got out there to represent Canada, paddling a Paheo. This was the same course as the first race and turns out to be the most exciting one of the day. There were lots of races within races, lots of hulis as the paddlers try to make the final turn, and Lili finishes upright, not last, and with a great big smile.

The men’s Open race is last and it is extended up to Muri Beach for 18km. At the last minute, Phil G. gets a canoe (Hurricane), borrows water, paddles, jersey etc. He had to do a sprint to make the start line… The locals where well represented in this race and the best show put on by the V1 racers. They had to work so hard to make the final turn and then battle the cross currents to make it to the finish line. It looked like just way too much work. One V1 racer was getting pushed in to the reef, huli’d a couple times, got back up racing, but missed the buoy turn and was DQ’d within just that last couple hundred meters. Phil lost the handle to his race paddle about half way into the race, had to wave down the escort boat to hand that one off and then finish the race with the spare…. I’ll let him fill in his own details. He did seem to be ready for that beer at the finish line! Conditions were crazy all day. I heard one paddle say be was swept off his canoe about 20 times!

While all this was going on, there were junior races going on up at Muri. It would have been fun to catch those but OC1 races were behind time so we had to give that a miss.

The day wrapped up with official opening ceremonies, entertainment by a local school, day 1 medal presentations and then a paddlers dinner. My claim to fame this week? I was first in line for dinner – likely my only first place of the week:)

Sunday – no racing, and no paddling at all. It’s church day here in Paradise….

Vaka Eiva Day 1

Jan – Jericho

Here we are, in Rarotonga, for the 2011 Vaka Eiva ( Been here just over a week now. Today is the canoe blessing and opening ceremonies, tomorrow the races begin with the OC1 and V1 events.

There are 12 women here racing for Jericho and 3 guys that will be racing with other paddlers from NZ and Samoa. We’ve been very warmly welcomed, and have been interviewed for both the local newspaper and TV station as the team that has travelled the greatest distance! We’ve been practicing, wandering, eating and enjoying this lovely island.

Weather has been spectacular and the winds are picking up. The whole island is surrounded by a reef and the local crews have a big advantage, knowing how close they can get to that reef, without damaging a canoe (as one team did last year – actually breaking a canoe in half!).

As part of the whole community spirit approach to the event, yesterday we visited a local school and had a great time. We were treated to all the local fruits, fresh from the shell coconut juice and grated coconut, had crowns and skirts made for us from palm leaves, and were shown how to husk coconuts. Strangely, they didn’t let us handle the machetes! All the different grades sang us a tune or two and to finish off the show, they asked us to sing O Canada! We got through that without too much embarrassment…. We passed around some souvenirs, including a foamy puck head hat from the Vancouver Giants. I asked the students ‘Who should wear the official puck head?’ and they all agreed – the principal! Pictures will be coming…

Today we are going to paddle canoes from one race site to another, about a 9 km paddle. It’s about 28C right now, so it’ll be a good test of paddling in the heat.

More to come – Internet access is spotty so updates may not be regular. Pictures will have to wait until we get home.

Vaka Eiva Day 4

Jan – Jericho

Iron races
Monday morning we wake up to a cool (22) and windy day. It stayed overcast for most of the day – good for racing but worked it’s way up to about 26.

Due to the small number of canoes, there are multiple iron races organized by groups: men’s masters, senior masters and under 19s, then women’s masters, senior masters and under 19s, then the mixed crews. These races were all 12 km. While by age, we could have raced masters, we choose to race the 18km open race. When you have come this far, you might as well make the most of it.

It was a tough race. Winds were from the north east so the waves were ama side for the first half of the race, intonthe headwind and you also have the ocean swells pushing you around. Waves were 6-7 feet with the occasional 8-10 footer to climb. Coming back, we got to do some surfing but not in the nice sets as we were hoping for. The runs were faster by the reef but you can’t paddle too close as you get sucked right on to the reef. The locals really know how to use this to their advantage. For the first time, a Cook Island women’s team won, beating the strong Aussies and kiwis. We came in 11th and 12th, very happy to finish, stay upright, and beat a few other crews. Best of all, at the finish line – local kids are swimming in the water. They are cheering, then climbing all over the canoe, pushing us in and generally making for a fantastic welcoming committee!

There was one bad incident during the race. The men and women’s open crews raced together. About 4 km from the finish, one of the men’s crews hit the reef. Their ama broke and the paddlers got tossed out of the canoe. Most got away with a few scrapes and bruises but one paddler was beaten up pretty badly. They started to treat him at the first aid site but had to take him to hospital. We believe he is ok but haven’t had any status updates.

The day ended with an 8km fun mixed race. Paddlers from different crews jumped into canoes. The water was calmer and the race was on. With the shorter course, it was a much tighter race with lots of fun battles. An almost all Canadian crew chased a crew with Nappy steering all the way, but had to let the Hawaiian take them at the finish!

Tuesday is a rest day for us, with race for juniors in the lagoon. We will be heading up to do some cheering, while stretching out tired bodies in prep for Wednesday’s Round Rarotonga Change race….