Na Waine O Ke Kai (2013)
Only two crews from the UK have ever taken on the "world championships" of outrigger canoe racing and both were from Royal CC!
2013, 19 years after the first crew completed the race Royal CC Outrigger returned to the home of outrigger canoeing to take on the challenge again.
The NWOKK race is 41 miles between the Hawaiian islands of Molokai and Oahu across the notorious Ka'iwi channel renowned for the size of waves formed by the Pacific swells and trade winds that funnel between the islands. This is followed 2 weeks later by the Molokai Hoe Kane (men’s race)
The mission conceived 11 months earlier, included a training camp in Dubai and bi weekly visits to Exmouth to develop the team and get valued training outside of the Thames! But nothing matched the challenging conditions the crew faced on the race.
The team trained from Waikiki beach the week prior to the race with daily runs to Diamond Head in canoes kindly provided by outrigger legend Nappy Napolean. Paddling with turtles and dolphins on aqua marine seas of 25c alongside the famous Waikiki surf break certainly was an experience not to be missed and inspired the whole crew.
A total of 68 crews - an impressive 680 women - gathered at Hale O Lano harbour the morning of he race. All grateful not to be faced with the huge waves that closed out the harbour the year previous. At 7.50am the race was on! We avoided an early collision of canoes and seemed in a good position in the first third of the fleet. Though with the canoes spread over a kilometre across it was hard to tell. We arrived at Lau point where we were allowed our first change but no sign of our support boat! As the minutes went past we all began to worry that we might be doing the race iron as finding us now would be a challenge. Finally we heard an engine and known voices shouting to us - relief! But we were now over an hour into the race so already our change schedule was way over. As we paddled away from the shelter of the island we began to experience the full strength of the wind and waves. Certainly the largest any of us had experienced before. However the prevailing winds are on the right aft side of the canoe which at least makes it less likely to capsize!
The Na Wahine O Ke Kai is a change race, which means a crew of 10 rotating in and out of the 6 person canoe every 20 minutes. All changes have to be done from the water and involve hauling yourself from the sea into the canoe whilst a very relieved paddler jumps out the other side. We had practised our water changes to improve speed of entry, but the added challenge of locating the paddlers in the water, keeping on course and for the relief paddlers to get in was far more challenging that any of us had experienced.
As the minutes and hours past Molokai became a distant image and Diamond Head remained a tantilzing image that failed to get any closer. But eventually we were closing in on Diamond Head and the finish. Overtaking some crews in the final 2 miles we stormed across the finish line in a time of 7 hours 30 minutes to place 40th.
It is an epic race for any crew to take on let alone one from the UK. Just to complete the race is a challenge and we celebrated our success with pride. We were now all “women of the sea”!
Thanks go to the wonderful Aloha spirit we received from the paddling community of the Hawaiian islands to whom we owe so much. Thanks also to our amazing support crew Griff, Marc, Mike, John and Andy.
Crew: Guin Batten, Trisha Corless, Sharon Wilkins, Shirine Voller, Suzy Hornby, Maggie Noke, Lisa Trunk, Ali Martineau, Siobhan Thomas, Anne Bellany.