Individual talents came to the fore for the first day of races in the singles V1 (rudderless) and OC1 canoes with the vaine toa paddlers hitting the water first up.
Eighteen women lined up on “the Boiler’’ start line for the 12km Iron race from outside the mouth of the Avarua harbour to the turning buoy at Matavera point and back to the finish line in the harbour.
Off the start line, local paddling legend Serena Hunter led the pack and looked set to take out the race as she rounded the turn buoy for the sprint leg home. However, fellow master women’ paddler Tania Moohin was hot on her tail and made her move early in the return leg to overtake Hunter and cross the finish line in first overall in her OC1 canoe followed closely behind by Hunter.
Moohin said after the race that with Serena Hunter just a short distance ahead of her on the first 6km leg of the Iron race, she felt she had every chance of chasing her down and taking the lead.
“I thought to myself, if she is this close I might have a chance of catching her!” said Moohin.
Moohin, who first competed at Vaka Eiva in 2008 where she recorded a podium finish with Hunter in the open women’s race, credited her win to her Hurricane brand Ocean Canoe (OC1) vaka.
“I really had a great boat that suited the conditions – it really did all the work out there,” she said.
“She really did have the better boat,” commented Hunter, who had opted to paddle the OC1 canoe rather than her preferred rudderless (V1) canoe.
Still buzzing from the win, Moohin said she was hooting and hollering on the final 6km leg home as she caught a couple of decent sized waves and surfed them toward the finish line.
“I was just screaming ‘woohoo’ catching those waves – I was really having some fun out there!”
Moohin crossed the line first in 1.15.04 to take out the overall race and master women’s division in the OC1 division with Hunter a little over a minute later in a time of 1.16.18.
Young local talent Becs Rasmussen came third overall and first in the V1 open women’s division in a time of 1.19.30 with fellow local female paddler Tara Cummings next on her V1 canoe in a time of 1.24.10.
In the men’s V1 and OC1 Iron races, conditions deteriorated slightly, however, it was no match for top local paddler Andre Tutaka-George who blitzed the course with a comfortable half a kilometre lead ahead of the chasing pack for the majority of the race.
The win in the open men’s Iron division is Tutaka-George’s first, but he is no stranger to winning having been the top junior male paddler for a number of years.
Although winning comfortably, the humble athlete described the water conditions and tough with side-on waves to contend with in the first 6km leg of the race in his V1 canoe before the turn around and surf leg back to the finish line.
While the top local paddler is gearing up for the 2020 Olympics in Japan in the surf-ski discipline, he says his immediate focus is outrigger paddling with his next major paddling event after Vaka Eiva next year in May in Tahiti.
Tutaka-George blitzed the 12km course in a time of 1.05.02 to take out the overall, open men and V1 division while Danny Sheard proved age was no barrier crossing the finish line in second overall in his OC1 canoe and first in his senior master men division in a time of 1.07.57.
Third overall and second open men’s V1 paddler went to local lad Tupuna Amo in a time of 1.08.41.
Otea Tommy was the best in the under 19 division finishing in a time of 1.11.23.
Check out the Vaka Eiva Facebook page for more images and race results.
- Matariki Wilson