(Tahitipresse) - Tahiti's champion Shell Va'a team won Hawaii's Molokai Hoe outrigger canoe race for an historic third straight time Sunday, also setting a record for the 41-mile (65.9 km) course for the third consecutive time, the Honolulu Advertiser reported on its Internet Web site.
Another team from Tahiti, Venus Va'a, finished second, and two other Tahiti clubs, Team OPT and E'Rai Va'a, finished fourth and fifth, respectively. That gave Tahiti teams four of the top five finishing places. Hawaii's Lanikai Canoe Club finished third, the newspaper reported.
More than 100 crews from throughout the world participated in Sunday's 58th version of the famous Molokai Hoe Race. This year's top international entries include New Zealand and Team Zebra, a mix of Olympic-caliber paddlers from Europe and Canada, according to the Honolulu Advertiser.
Shell Va'a's new record time for the race from Hale O Lono Harbor on the island of Molokai to Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Waikiki, on Oahu, was 4 hours 38 minutes 35 seconds.
That was 10 minutes 24 seconds faster than the 4 hours 48 minutes 59 seconds for the second place club, Tahiti's Venus Va'a.
Shell Va'a's new record time for the Molokai course shaved 1 minute 57 seconds off its record time last year of 4 hours 40 minutes 22 seconds. Last year, Shell Va'a smashed its previous record set in 2006 by six minutes.
After two false starts, the race began shortly after 7:30 am with Shell Va'a taking the lead, with the Lanikai canoe on its tail and the Team OPT, E'Rai Va'a and Venus Va'a canoes in their wakes.
By 8:40 am, the Shell canoe had a lead of 700 meters (765 yards), with Team OPT and the Lanikai canoe dueling in second place.
After nearly two hours of racing, Shell Va'a had an estimated lead of 1.5 kilometers (nearly a mile). The swell in the channel between Molokai and Oahu was 1.5-2 meters (4.9-6.5 ft.) high. The Team OPT and Lanikai canoes were stilling battling for second place.
With a paddling rhythm of 82 strokes a minute, the Shell Va'a canoe began to widen its lead en route to its historic third straight victory.
Before Sunday's race, veteran paddler John Foti of the Lanikai Canoe Club, told the Honolulu Advertiser, "Tahiti has raised the bar, and raised it pretty damn high. It'll take nothing short of a perfect race (to catch them). There can be no mistakes from start to finish."
Foti's club finished third and was the first Hawaiian team in the top five. But its time of 4 hours 51 minutes 50 seconds was 13 minutes 15 seconds slower than Shell Va'a's record time.
As the Honolulu newspaper noted prior to the race, "The Molokai Hoe is considered the world championship of long-distance outrigger canoe racing for men's teams."
Michel Moux, the manager of the Shell Va'a club, told the newspaper before Sunday's competition that this year's team was missing only two of last year's nine paddlers. "We added two young guys. I'm not sure if we are stronger this year, but I think we are more together."
Moux told the Honolulu Advertiser that Shell Va'a and Team OPT have been trading victories this year in outrigger canoe club races in Tahiti. Team OPT finished second to Shell Va'a in last year's Molokai Race.
"Let's say OPT is N° 1," Moux told the newspaper with a smile. "I want them to be the favorite, not us."
Shell Va'a's victory sets the stage for the Hawaiki Nui Va'a race to be held in French Polynesia's Leeward Islands from Oct. 29-31. Shell Va'a will be aiming for an historic fourth consecutive victory.
The Hawaiki Nui race is between four islands—Huahine, Raiatea, Taha'a and Bora Bora. The race covers a total distance of 128 kilometers (79.5 miles) over the three days.
Moux told the Honolulu newspaper, "To me, Hawaiki Nui is the biggest race. But all the best teams come to Molokai, so this is where we have to be to see how we stand."
» Source: Tahiti Presse