The 2017 Maui Jim Molokai Challenge is over for another year and we were extremely proud to see two of our star athletes from the Vaikobi Race Team, absolutely dominate this years race.
Sean Rice & Rachel Clarke claimed both the Men's & Women's titles respectively giving Vaikobi an exciting double title in what was a gruelling Molokai this year!
In the Men's Sean Rice (South Africa) owned it from the beginning and pulled out a massive win over what many considered to be one of the strongest line up of competitors for a long time. To describe the calibre of this victory, one only has to see the names of the competitors behind him- Hank McGregor, Cory Hill, Jasper Mocke, Clint Robinson, Pat Dolan, Oscar Chalupsky & Lewis Laughlin....all absolute legends of the sport.
Sean has locked in to a strong training program out of his Richmond base in London UK and his perfect preparation showed as he dominated this race from start to finish.
We are extremely proud of Sean and everything he has achieved to date and we know that winning this race has been a goal of his for a very long time, so it was fantastic to see his goal achieved.
In the Womens, Rachel Clarke (New Zealand) set the pace from the outset and showed why she is one of the world's best ocean paddlers on the circuit right now. Rachel controlled her tempo and finished strong to take the Womens title- Her second Molokai title and we don't think she is done yet!
We are so stoked for Rach to be able to claim her second Molokai in such great style and we are excited to see her continue this strong form through the year.
Ryan Paroz (Australia) was the third Vaikobi Race Team member competing in the Molokai this year. 2017 was Ryan's 4th Molokai, which for a 21 year old is pretty awesome if you ask us! Ryan finished 19th overall and 3rd in the 19-29 division. Well done Ryano!
Below are the Molokai stories as told by Sean and Rach. Enjoy!
Today was a big day for me! Today I finally took the win at one of the most prestigious Surfski races in the world, the Molokai Challenge. I've been so close before, but 4th time lucky! The hard work and sacrifice that has gone on behind the scenes to me achieving this is endless and by no means all mine! I have to thank my sponsors, both Think Kayak Global and Vaikobi for their confidence and support they put into me. I just can't thank you enough! Thank you to the crew from Richmond Canoe Club for the quality training!
I want to thank my friends, family and most of all my Emily for the endless guidance and encouragement towards me achieving my best. I doubt my self a lot and you never do!
The racing was tough and the field was strong. Thank you to all the guys out there today for a fantastic and brutal race. I will be feeling it for a while haha.
The beers are going to taste as sweet as honey tonight!
After last years Molokai I didn’t think I would be heading back to race the gruelling 52km slog that it was. Dead flat glassy waters and I was just happy to finish the 2016 Molokai race. Late last year i thought to myself, you know what; I want to be the female ski paddler that’s known for Molokai, the most wins under their belt. I think for me the feeling when you cross the finish line in Hawaii Kai it’s a pretty unreal feeling knowing that you’ve just crossed one of the most dangerous channels in the world – ‘The channel of Bones’. Molokai is one of the most prestige races in the World so who wouldn’t want to go back?!
This year I arrived in Hawaii on the Saturday morning, 1 week prior to race day. I wanted to give myself enough time to acclimatise and feel comfortable during the week. Leaving Auckland with rather chilly weather it was quite nice to arrive in Hawaii with 28-30 degrees! Once I landed in Hawaii I spent the day with my mum just relaxing and checking into our Hotel. I had a rest day and just went for a swim and walk at the beach. Over the next couple of days I did a couple of downwind runs from Hawaii Kai (where the race finish is) to the Outrigger Club, this paddle is approximately 18km from the edge of China Wall. I had an awesome time during these paddles and thought to myself maybe this will be a downwind year for Molokai! The entire week was absolutely cranking conditions the daily shuttles were full. Once again as all the paddlers were looking on weather and wind apps it would seem we were going to have another flat year paddling across the channel. I wasn’t too phased by this, I had done majority of my training in the flat but of course a downwind would have been a lot of fun! On the Wednesday mum and I hired my dream car aka Jeep Wrangler and drove up to the North Shore for the day, we checked out the local town and spent some time checking out the famous Waimea Bay. That night we had a lovely BBQ at the Brand’s residence with fellow paddlers which was so lovely and amazing scenery to look out onto Pipeline from their backyard! Thank you so much Charles and Beth for having us! Days went by and I kept on checking the wind conditions but it was pretty set in that it was going to be flat. I continued doing my planned programme and tried to keep relaxed throughout the week.
This year I had decided to fly over to Molokai on the race morning, this meant I could have a hearty dinner and a early night sleep knowing that I would have to get up at 4am to catch the flight. By 6:30am we had landed on Molokai and it was about a 20 minute shuttle to the race start location at Kepuhi Bay. We arrived at the Bay and I had a about an 1 1/2 hours until the female start, the mens start was 30 minutes after us. I found my ski and got it all set up with my drink system and gels and made sure everything was set to go. The water looked rather calm and I though ‘Wow here we go again, flat racing’. At about 7:45 all paddlers gathered on the beach for a blessing which was really moving and I think made us all realise how special this race and channel we are about to paddle really is. At about 8:00am I located my support boat and waved him down, my mum then swam out to the boat with our gear bags and I got on the water for a warm up. I was feeling really good and was trying not to get too nervous. 8:30am and we were all lined up on the start line, also in the women’s start were the outriggers, double ski’s and a few on the intermediate male paddlers. The hooter went and I was off, I had a good start and was in a group with an OC6 and a women’s double ski. I stayed in this group for about 15km’s, I was feeling very strong and relaxed in the flat conditions. My plan was to stay controlled for the first 30km and then push it up a notch for the last 22km. With that in mind I didn’t want to push it too hard and have nothing for the last 2hours. This year I was paddling the Epic V12 where as last year I paddled the V10L GT (about 3kg’s lighter). The V12 is the ultimate downwind boat however noticeably heavier than the GT but that’s the boat I had decided to paddle and I love it. For the next 15km I was with the double ski and we had a few turns of taking leads. Up to 35km I was feeling really good, I went off on my own and tried to tick it up a notch. The muscles were beginning to ache and I was definitely starting to feel the pain. As I approached China wall there were a few pumps to catch but it was pretty hard work and as I got closer and closer to China wall it got messier, pretty much like a washing machine. As I rounded China wall I knew I had about 2kms to go, I gave it everything I had and pushed it to the finish. Crossing that finish line I was so happy, knowing I gave it everything and the icing on the cake to be the first female. I guess I was slightly disappointed to have done exactly the same time as I did last year but hard to compare with the conditions and paddling a heavier boat. I will definitely be back next year for another crossing!!! The mens race was one hot field with Sean Rice taking the win, Hank McGregor coming in 2nd and Cory Hill in 3rd.
A huge thank you to my sponsors for your ongoing support and helping me get here!!!!