Paddlers now eyeing Cook Strait race
After more than 12 years, a team of Porirua paddlers has done it again – crossed Cook Strait in a six-man outrigger canoe.
The successful crossing at the end of March marks the beginning of what could become an annual race across the strait.
Waka ama is the fastest growing paddling sport in New Zealand. There are now 4100 active paddlers, with more than 550 paddlers and 11 clubs in the Wellington region.
Joern Scherzer, the team organiser said that paddling across Cook Strait was one of those things to tick off a bucket list.
It did not come easy, with team members training daily for month.
On the day, the team starting paddling paddle at 5.30am from Mana.
‘‘The first hour we paddled in complete darkness, and it’s only once we had passed Mana Island, over 12km into the crossing, that the first signs of morning emerged,’’ Scherzer said.
About 4h 40min later, having covered 55km, the team reached Ship Cove in the outer Marlborough Sounds.
Ship Cove gave safe harbour to Captain James Cook five times in the 1770s and is a picturesque location to finish a crossing.
Scherzer said that during the paddle, each paddler did about 13,000 strokes and went through at least four litres of electrolytes and a good supply of ‘‘squeezies’’ (liquid carbohydrate replacements).
‘‘Most also finish with blisters on their hands and plenty of sore muscles.’’
Fortunately, the return was more relaxed – on the Interislander ferry. ‘‘ The idea for the Cook Strait crossing came about because I sometimes get asked why we don’t run a race across the Strait,’’ Scherzer said. ‘‘ What many people don’t realise is the strait is a very unpredictable stretch of water, with strong tidal flows and often strong winds.
‘‘ The crossing was a test of whether it could be done if the conditions are right, and I think it could work.’’
For two years, Scherzer has organised the Mana Ocean Challenge, between Porirua and Kapiti.
Six-man outrigger canoe teams paddle 38km, preferably with the wind at their back, in what can be demanding rough water conditions.
It is the longest waka ama marathon race in New Zealand.
Scherzer is now working on adding a Cook Strait crossing as a race course option, provided he can secure sufficient logistical support and the conditions are settled on the day.