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Motu2Motu draws impressive numbers of internationals

Saturday 3 December 2022 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Paddling, Sports

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Motu2Motu draws impressive numbers of internationals
Paddles in for the Motu2Motu races in Aitutaki. Picture: Motu2Motu/22120225

One hundred and sixty-eight (168) international Oe Vaka paddlers and spectators from around the globe have made the pilgrimage to Aitutaki, to paddle in arguably the world’s most picturesque paddling event.

After an unforeseen three-year break since 2019 due to Covid-19, this week the popular Motu2Motu canoeing race was held once again in Aitutaki’s stunning lagoon, celebrating its tenth anniversary.

The Motu2Motu organisers, Stephen and Poppy Doherty were both pleased to see the large number of Canadians and Hawaiians this year, as well as a host of Australians, many of whom were returning competitors who brought them along to experience this unique event.

On Monday the Iron Race day 10km course started at Ootu, turning just before the Papau passage, before returning to the finish line at Ootu.

The Iron Races started with the Masters women, followed by the Open Races for both men and women.

Second placed Team Teal which was steered by local paddling legend Papa Sani Sosene in the Motu2Motu race. Motu2Motu/22120226
Second placed Team Teal which was steered by local paddling legend Papa Sani Sosene in the Motu2Motu race. Motu2Motu/22120226

Stephen Doherty said there had been some close battles, but more importantly the race had given the paddlers an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the vaka and local conditions before the changeover race the following day.

Tuesday’s main changeover event had a different course lined up starting at Ootu.

Twelve vaka lined up on the starting line before charging alongside the sandbanks towards Papau, a combination of shallow and deep water changes saw the teams having to construct detailed race plans to make the most of the different make up of their crews, said Doherty.

The turn-around buoy sitting deep in the channel between Tekopua and Onefoot island gave the teams the opportunity to size up the canoes, both ahead and behind them.

“This certainly laid down the challenge for many, determined to make up a few places on the leg back home,” said Doherty.

In the end, Team Yellow canoe took the honour, crossing the finish line first with a clear gap over second placed Team Teal which was steered by local paddling legend Papa Sani Sosene, and Team Light Blue rounding out the podium places in third.

The Motu2Motu changing over change over race in Aitutaki’s stunning lagoon. Picture: Motu2Motu/22120229
The Motu2Motu changing over change over race in Aitutaki’s stunning lagoon. Picture: Motu2Motu/22120229

After a well-deserved rest day on Wednesday, 16 teams were back in the lagoon on Thursday for Sprint Day.

The hot conditions, with strong side winds had the teams pushing themselves and sometimes others, to the limit.

“Next year, Motu2Motu looks forward to continuing its record of filling every available canoe,” said Doherty.

“At a time where paddling events worldwide are struggling to attract paddlers, Motu2Motu has obviously found a niche.

“The influx of paddlers, many staying for much longer than the week of racing, offers Aitutaki a well-deserved boost at what would otherwise be a quieter time of year.”

During the week, announcements arrived of the Hawaiian Airlines flights from Honolulu direct to Rarotonga, and Jetstar services from Sydney, starting up again next year.

This news led to a huge amount of excitement among the paddlers and spectators, in particular the Hawaiians and Australians, as these new services will make it even easier for paddlers to visit the Cook Islands.

The Motu2Motu Changeover race winners Team Yellow Capt Bok in the Toa Moana canoe. Picture: Motu2Motu. 22120235
The Motu2Motu Changeover race winners Team Yellow Capt Bok in the Toa Moana canoe. Picture: Motu2Motu. 22120235

The Dohertys would like to say a big meitaki atupaka to everyone who has contributed to the successful event: Matson, BSP, Cook Islands Tourism, Air Rarotonga, Rarotonga Brewery, Aitutaki Village, local clubs Toa Moana, Aitutaki Oe Vaka and Te Mana.

“Biggest thanks go to the people of Aitutaki for sharing the love of the island with all of our international visitors,” said Doherty.

The results for the Iron race 10km are as follows. Master Women: 1st Rideau Valley 54 .45, 2nd Te Tupu 58.03, 3rd Marutchi 1.00.57, 4th Pandanas 1.01.2, 5th Paddle Family 1.02.15, 6th Wai Nui team 1 1.03.25, 7th Team Rosemary 1.07.31, 8th Wai Nui Team II 1.10.22; Master Men:1st Paddle Family 52.15, 2nd Wai Nui 53.28, 3rd Pandanas 54.05, 4th Bison's 55.00, Team Patrick 55.43; Open Women 1st Renegades 1.00.32, 2nd Team Florida 101.27, 3rd New Hope 1.01.29, 4th Team Kylie 1.04.25, 5th Haieiwa 1.05.32, 6th Pandanas 1.05.37; Open Men 1st Hawaii 51.56, 2nd Aitutaki OV 52.14, 3rd Renegades 55.17, 4th Team Maki 55.52.

Motu2Motu Changeover race: 1st Team Yellow Capt Bok, Toa Moana canoe 3hours 17 minutes; 2nd Team Teal Capt Long, ALRS canoe 3.20hrs; 3rd Team Light Blue Capt Ben, Air Raro canoe.3.21hrs