The unofficial world championship of open water outrigger paddling for women, the Na Wahine O Ke Kai (Women of the Water) from Molokai to Oahu across the Kaiwi channel has been cancelled.
Although the impact of Tropical Storm Niala was cited it would appear that the decision was ‘taken in the interest of certain less than experienced crews’. This year’s race would have marked the 37th running of the event & the cancellation has affected 72 crews and 800 paddlers from around the world including teams from Canada, Japan, the USA mainland, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia & Canada as well as Hawaii.
Late in the afternoon of the day before the race – with competitors & their outriggers already in Molokai awaiting the start of the race early the next morning – the organizers cancelled the event due to a small craft advisory forecast for the Kaiwi Channel indicating winds approaching 30 knots, 4 metres wind waves and heavy rain. The last & only other occasion on which the race has been cancelled was in 1980, the 2nd scheduled running of the event, when waves were approaching 10 metres in strong winds.
Race director Hannie Anderson and the race committee determined that strong winds and treacherous surf throughout the Kaiwi Channel would have made the 66klm crossing too dangerous for paddlers, escort boat personnel and water officials.
There is no doubting Hannie Anderson’s competency to make such decisions, nor is the any question that the safety of competitors must be paramount. Take a look at this video from the 2012 event is which 10 outriggers were swamped in 3metre swells.…..
There is, however, room for debate covering surrounding areas such as eligibility for entry requirements. The sport’s governing body in Tahiti is looking to authorize women (& juniors) to paddle the final leg of the Hawaiki Nui Va’a race from next year, a move that will see the women competing in open sea conditions between Tahaa & Bora Bora in what I believe will be the world’s most spectacular event for women. Another world famous acquatic event that has had to address these issues is the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, a legendary event conducted in often treacherous seas – organisers of this event have put in place a comprehensive list of requirements for any individual wishing to participate.
Team Bora Bora, an experienced grouping of current outrigger World Champions & recent Pacific Games winners will be back – with the experience they gained in last year’s event, I believe they are capable of winning the Na Wahine O Ke Kai for the first time!