Monday, December 13, 2010

Vak Eiva 2010

The only proper way to start would be to say Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to friends, family and really, everyone!

To the right we have the 2010 Christmas effort - right tropical really!

It is a strange time for us on the island right now. The weather is hot and still, and we hope it isn't still like this in a few months. We keep a close eye on the weather websites and were delighted to note that last week, when we thought is was stinking hot, it really was: 33 degrees and 75% humidity apparently feels like 37 degrees. How true.

School is out, the shopping has been done, Xmas in the Park (island style) is this week along with the staff Xmas party, and the job hunt goes on.

Of course Christmas is less than a fortnight away, and the Advent calendars (kept in the fridge to avoid melting) are providing answers to that age old question 'how long is it until Christmas....?" The family gifts are under the tree (hiding places are few and far between in the house) and the kids are rattling them and wondering...

The chocolate truffles bought in NZ for Xmas eve have been demolished...woops! The brandy snap shells are still in one piece and I have found UHT whipping cream on the island too. The children have discovered Creme Brulee so that is the plan for Xmas day. That and I (Mrs Shah, that is) made Xmas mince pies! From scratch (mostly)!

I blame this frenzy of foodiness on Vaka Eiva - or the fact that it is over, I should say. The week long festival of Outrigger Canoe paddling bought 800 paddlers to Rarotonga from NZ, Aus Hawaii and Tahiti. Add in supporters and families and it would be fair to say the island was heaving! Thankfully Nana came to spend a week looking after the kids, which in hindsight was more relaxing than paddling and paddle-tix (paddleing politics).

Over the week long regatta Michael and I paddled in 12km marathon races, 500m sprints, and Michael in the 32km Round Raro Relay Race. At the start of the week it was awesome to be a part of the blessing of the canoes, with our club vaka representing the Aitutaki clubs. We had to decorate the canoe which was then blessed with canoes from the other countries and Raro clubs.

Saturday - the first day of the regatta had terrible sea conditions, and I had a lot of concern about how my mixed crew would handle those. Michael's men's crew was raring to go, and thankfully by Monday the seas had dropped a bit. Unfortunately their allocated canoe was of an unfamiliar shape and not rigged to suit them, which created stability issues and meant the men never hit their stride. Their time of 1:08 was 9 min behind the leaders brough them in 9th place - a disappointing result for them.

Micheal was the only one of the men's team to race with two teams, and after the mornign race had to rest up for another 12km later that afternoon with the mixed crew. He was concerned about being able to recover but the reality was that he is the fittest in the club, let alone fittest in the more social mixed crew! The 3.30pm Mixed race was delayed ... and delayed as the previous races ran later ... and later. The upside was the rough sea conditions subsided, the downside was watching everyone else have a beer as we sat around waiting to race.

Fortunately ourallocated canoe was the sister to our usual training canoe - very familiar and comfortbale. As it got laterand it became obvious we would be racing the setting sun as much as the other canoes, the race was shortened to 8km, and at 6.15pm we finallyset off with 28 other canoes, chasing flying fish and skirting the breakers on the reef.

Being in a race of 29 canoes was amazing, and we had an AWESOME race. Everyone was pumped up and gave their all, pulling together and cheering each other on. We surfed a few swells, steered a tactical race, holding our line against rival crews and blocking passing maneuvers. We over took our Aitutaki training partners (in yellow, below) and held out an Australian crew over the last 50m for a tough sprint finish. It was a fantastic reslt, and we yelled and cheered and ate pizza in the water as we waited an hour for all the canoe sot be carried up the slipway. We came home in 41min, 6 min behind the leaders and 15th out of 18 in our age group (Masters). We were stoked.

That was really the highlight for us. The Sprints day wasn't the fun occasion we were expecting, with personality clashes and bad race scheduling causing issues. Our men's crew was T-boned by a kiwi crew straying out of their lane for the only DQ of the regatta. That resulted in a late re-race for the men, which meant a back to back for a couple of our paddlers and impacted on the mixed crew (in the very next race). Given that the sprints were a fun extra, and weren't a focus for the club, the tensions were...unfortunate.

The week ended with the Round Raro Relay Race, where crews of 9 take turns to jump in and out of their canoes and chase boats to complete the 32km circumnavigation. The men had been training hard for this event and had a race manager, Mena, from Rarotonga lined up for their chase boat. Mena asked me onto the chase boat to help with drink bottles and crew changes, which unfortunately turned me into an instant tall poppy ready to be mown down. Despite that, Mena and I worked well together and the crew went well for the first part of the race.

For the last half of the race the conditions on the eastern side of the island were sloppier, and fatigue started to set in, resulting in a near capsize ('huli', below). 20 minutes later, just after passing Pacific Resort Rarotonga, the canoe did capsize, and we had to watch 3 crews go past before recovering. At that point, Michael had gotten into the chase boat and suffered from severe cramps. Just as I was about to call in the safety boat the cramps started to ease and feeling returned to his face and hands (!)

But the week wasn't all about paddling. we managed to get some family time in too (and Michael had to work one day of course). We took advantage of the rare occasion of having 3 adults available and arranged a Quad Biking adventure into the inland mountains. With Nana paired with Bailey, Sienna with Jen and Michael with Jamie, the adults had their work cut out. Acting more like mudguards than drivers, we raced up rocky trails, across swollen streams and through huge puddles of muddy water. It was an impressive ride from Lorraine and Jen bearing in mind the state of their shoulders, wrists and bones.

It was nice to be away, but good to get home. And despite training so hard for the paddling, somehow we ar eboth glad it's all over ... on to the next adventure 2011.

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