Hamilton Island Cup
photos and story by Harvie Allison
For the first time in the history of the race, there are no teams from Hawaii, and with only a handful of overseas competitors, the regatta would no longer be classed as a major international event.But for all the Aussies attending it is still the best race in the country. The fact that the Hawaiians are missing means so much to all of our paddlers. For the veterans like myself, we haven’t seen old friends, and for the novice paddlers, they miss out on the wealth of knowledge gained from you guys & more importantly, learning about the spirit of Aloha that embraces our wonderful sport.
With only 450 paddlers this year, Hamilton has slipped on the best race list; Cook Islands Vaka Eiva has 900 registered paddlers for 2010, and given that Hawaiki Nui is too much to handle for most, in my opinion would leap frog Hamilton into third spot after Lilio and Molokai.
Day 1: OC1/2
30 knot winds, overcast & rain squalls. Accordingly, due to safety concerns, the organizers who are now the Aussie National body AOCRA, decided on an alternate course 8km out then back.
Off the start line, the pace was fast & furious. With a strong wind behind and a flooding tide, the canoes flew; only small wind chop to ride but still some long runs. Round the half-way turn and heading for home conditions could only be described as BRUTAL! A hard slog into the headwind & strong tidal current. The front pack soon started to thin. At the 6km mark, Travis Grant started to open a nice lead on his Kamanu rocket which he held for a comfortable win from big Todd Cohen on a Stealth, then Matt “Rowdy” Carter catching some great runners on the Scorpious came third. The women's race saw a win for Kylie Muldoon from Outrigger Whitsunday with only three staters. The OC2 field was well supported in all divisions. A quick rest and then line up again for the 250m sprints. Last for the day was the 8km marathon again in testing conditions, particularly for the newer paddlers who make up the bulk of the field.
Day 2: OC 6 16k marathons/500m sprints
First for the day was the Women’s 16k marathon. With strong winds again, the alternate course had to be run instead of round the Island. A blistering start with a field of only 18 saw The Surfers Paradise girls dominate from early in the race to win by a comfortable margin in the new “Tiger ROC” OC6. The Surfers girls continued through the day winning the sprints as well. Mooloolaba Masters, also in a ROC, dominated their division start to finish for a comfortable win of over 3 mins from Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
After the sprint finals, the Master men’s divisions raced. Fortunately conditions had eased enough to allow the trip round the island, although the seas were lumpy, the swell was only small. Mooloolaba Masters & Senior Masters dominated the field in both divisions with impressive winning margins.
Next the Open men, and although the wind had regained some strength, the big boys went round the island in messy conditions.
The scene was set for a battle royal, Team Tiger ROC had won the sprint impressively, but with a slingshot start from a favourable current, Outrigger Australia confirmed their resurgence by handing out a paddling lesson to the other teams; second was Team Tiger ROC who relegated reigning Champs and 42k record holders Northcliffe to third placing.
Day 3: 1000m sprints
With three turns on the 250m course, the steerers had to nail every one to be competitive. The open men’s race saw a first and second placing for Outrigger while Surfers Paradise girls again dominated women's racing. It was great to see a second place for the relatively new club from Victoria Patterson Lakes; their masters crew also took gold in their final. Mooloolaba Masters again dominated all divisions and were looking unbeatable for the 42km on Sunday.
Day 4: Hamilton Island Cup 42km
Waking to a fine day with light winds, the excitement was building, crews up early checking gear and loading supplies on support boats ready for a hard day at the office.
Forty-seven canoes lined up, a far cry from the normal compliment of close to 80, off the line and the scene was set for a battle of the Titans, gun open men’s crews, Outrigger Australia, Tiger ROC, Northcliffe, and dark horses Coffs Coast were grouped together. The two elite women’s crews Surfers Paradise and Team Australia were in close proximity.
1000m into the race and Outrigger started to show their raw power which the other teams just couldn’t match. They got their nose in front and gradually started to open up a clear lead.
Round Dent Island several crews decided to lighten the canoes weight by rubbing some gel coat off on the rocks, a tight line was an understatement, and by now Outrigger were clear by 100m and not to be challenged for the rest of the race.
Reaching South Head for the all important trip out to Pentecost, the canoes of choice, The Tiger ROC and Southern Spirit were showing why they suit Aussie race conditions with great uphill capability. Northcliffe were flying in the spirit while Tiger and Coffs in the ROC’s were more than matching them. By now Outrigger, also in a Spirit had cleared out and it was obvious that another lesson in paddling was being given to the rest of the field.
Back in the women’s race, the top two crews had left the field well behind, but an incident at the bottom of Dent Island where the Surfers Paradise girls in a Tiger ROC were accidentally tapped from the rear causing the canoe to be hit by Northern Beaches Mixed Team and loosening the rig. As the girls struggled to lash the front Iako, Team Australia in the Southern Spirit slipped past to take the lead. After retightening the straps, Surfers recovered to Push Team Australia all the way to the finish.
A win and new race record for Team Australia with Surfers Paradise just under a minute behind. Third place Patterson Lakes certainly gave Victorian canoeing a boost, and although a distant 21 minutes behind the leaders in their Mirage, the girls were euphoric with a podium finish, even better there were three Cook Islands girls in the crew (sorry, I’m biased!).
The final run from Pentecost saw Outrigger men in a class of their own crossing the line with a winning margin of five minutes. Tiger Coffs and Northcliffe were still all tight, Northcliffe gradually consolidating their second place by just over two minutes from Coffs. Fast finishing Team Tiger had been gaining ground but decided to stop for a swim in the final few minutes, the huli probably cost them the third spot, but they were still pleased with their race.
For full results go to www.aocra.com