Tuesday 29 November 2011 | Published in Regional
Aitutaki's first ever Motu to Motu oe vaka race yesterday was one of epic proportions.
It took the six participating crews 36km across the expansive Aitutaki lagoon on a day best described as having four seasons in one day.
But before all the action and on water fun the six crews and Aitutaki islanders gathered at Arutanga harbour for a blessing ceremony that included a minute of silence for the late Alan Maki a passionate Aitutaki paddler who died during last weeks Vaka Eiva round Raro Relay Race.
The canoes, decorated Aitutaki style in ei and greenery, along with paddlers and support boat drivers were all blessed by the pastor before canoes were launched and the adventure began.
Just out from the Arutanga harbour the six canoes including four crews from Aitutaki lined up one under the name of United Nations carrying a number of international and local based paddlers as well as the aptly named SunTV crew made up of paddlers from the Sunshine Coast and Rarotonga national paddlers.
With canoes more or less in a line, the green flag was raised and the race was on.
Taking off from the start line first and so gaining the best race line was the SunTV crew who were closely chased by the United Nations and Aitutaki Under 19 crew.
The first leg of the race was a straight out 6km sprint to Honeymoon Island for the first shallow water changeover.
The shallow water changeover can only be best described as chaotic and replacement paddlers in hip high water lunged into the vaka as outgoing paddlers dove straight into the shallows.
It was certainly a sight to behold with paddles, legs and arms flying in all directions. The scene became more chaotic with more canoes at the changeover point hustling for the best position.
Although it looked like a fish feeding frenzy during the changeovers hoots of joy and shrieks of laughter were all that could be heard, especially from the Aitutaki crew.
This energy and laughter continued around the course even when there was confusion as to which motu was the one paddlers had to paddle around.
But as organising committee member Stephen Doherty said at the race briefing this years inaugural race was all about the fun of oe vaka.
As they had done from the start team SunTV took the lead and maintained it right to the end without competition to finish in 3 hours and 16 minutes.
Second place went to the United Nations crew who lost their second place placing a number of times during the race to the outstanding Aitutaki under 19 team who had to settle for third place.
United Nations crossed five minutes after the SunTV team in 3 hours and 21 minutes while the under 19 crew crossed the finish line at Ootu beach in 3 hours and 25 minutes.
As soon as crews hit the beach chilli bins were swiftly lined up and beers shared out to the paddlers who came off the water with the widest grins after a superb paddle on Aitutaki lagoon. There is no doubt that with a few tweaks the Motu to Motu race will become the next big thing after Vaka Eiva.