Paddlers conquer challenging 10th Savai’i Crossing

By Aruna Lolani ,

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1st place: The Samoa National Team with their team leader Billy Peters (front row, right).

1st place: The Samoa National Team with their team leader Billy Peters (front row, right). (Photo: Fetalai Tuiluluu )

The Samoa Outrigger Canoe Association’s (S.O.C.A) National Men’s team has won the 10th Anniversary of the Savai’i Crossing.

They overcame strong challenge from three other teams in yesterday’s regatta to secure the title of Savaii Crossing champions for 2017.

The men’s team is preparing for a global competition in Tahiti yesterday’s 42km grueling paddle would have done them a world of good to prepare them.

Skipper, Billy Peters, agrees.

 “It feels really good to win the Savai’i Crossing,” he said.

“Our challenge today was really against the time; we wanted to finish around three and a half hours but we went off course a little bit because when we came out of Savai’i, the guide boat was still inside the reef waiting for the other boats.

“So we sort of took a wrong line and that probably cost us about twenty minutes but yeah I think we would’ve still gotten our time if we didn’t go off track.”

Aside from that, Peters said a win is a win and more importantly it places them in a good space for Tahiti.

 “We’ve been training hard for Tahiti so we used today as a trial run to see what time we can get. We’ve been training seven weeks, morning and evenings. 

“Our goal in Tahiti is to win the 27kilometers V6 Race Ironman. It won’t be easy so today’s victory is a blessing but we still have a few things to work on in terms of getting our time. So if we could do 2 hours at 27km then there’s a good chance to win in Tahiti.”

Are they ready?

 “For now, I can say the boys are ready,” said Peters. “They’re serious, they’re committed and everyone’s training hard so I think probably the top paddlers which are the Tahitians, New Zealanders and Australians, they probably won’t expect a strong team from Samoa so we’re hoping to surprise them.”

2nd place: Coral Sea Outrigger Canoe Club from Australia, with their coach Stephen Mills.
2nd place: Coral Sea Outrigger Canoe Club from Australia, with their coach Stephen Mills.

The race started in front of Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s at Mulifanua to Savai’i and back. The Savai’i Crossing, oganised by the Pualele Outrigger Canoe Association, is perhaps the toughest regatta in Samoa.

Race Director, Andy Wheatley, said safety is very important.

“This year we've scaled it back a little bit because there are only four boats on the island that are capable of actually doing the race, that are safe enough to do the race so it's all about safety issues,” he said.

“So four boats out there are two local teams and two international teams.”

 Yesterday’s regatta – and the other regattas which were part of the 10th Anniversary of the Crossing, were watched all over the world thanks to Sky Eye’s technology.

Coral Sea from Australia came second; Pualele came third while American Samoa finished fourth.

Coral Sea Outrigger Canoe Club Coach Stephen Mills was a proud man.

 “A race is a race, second best is fantastic,” he said.  “Our age for the whole crew is about 230 years combined and we’ve got five golden masters people so we’re really pleased with the results.

“The other team members, for some of them it’s the first time that they’ve done changeovers and that they’ve done a distance of 43kilometers and coming over to a race is some of the toughest conditions in the world.

“And that last leg coming back, is just fantastic. People have thought that we couldn’t do it because it is challenging but you know mixed racing with women and men is really good.”

Yesterday’s race ended the three-day celebration of the Savai’i Crossing, which started with 16km iron race, also won by S.O.C.A’s Men’s team.

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